"Preaching was established by Jesus because God had a job to do.
To get the job done, preaching must be committed to two goals: first it should be passionate and second, fascinating.
Passion makes preaching seem imperative and urgent. Narrative is a force that postmodern preachers must use and listeners must reckon with. Narrative handcuffs intrigue to the ancient text. So, the homily gains relational force when the sermon is passionate enough to be visceral and story-driven enough to be visual."
--Preaching: the Art of Narrative Exposition by Calvin Miller
In the shift from the modern worldview to the postmodern worldview, preaching--once the crown jewel of the church's messaging--has fallen in many ways out of vogue. There are several reasons for this, some of which are legitimate criticisms, some of which are not.
But Calvin Miller, quoted above, rightly, points to two things which can help redeem the sermon as a communication medium. First, preaching must be passionate. In a world of advertisements and in authenticity, passion cuts through and impacts people. This passion can cause people to listen. Passion can move people to take action and change their lives. Passion is contagious, and can lead to the moving of a whole church. Passion evokes a "visceral" reaction, which moves people in their gut or heart.
If a preacher cannot be passionate about his message, he ought to rethink the message. If the preacher is not passionate about the message, he can rest assured that no one else will be either. Without passion, a message falls flat.
Second, preaching must be "fascinating." with powerful, "visual" stories. Even better, the effective sermon for postmoderns today ought to be shaped overall in a story format. That is, there is a narrative arch to the sermon, with all of the elements that make a good story--"characters" that you care about and that progress and develop. A beginning, conflict, a climax, and a resolution. A good story is memorable and can be shared with others. The story form itself helps people "visualize" things, as do pictures and video.
How can we have more passion in our preaching and sharing of the gospel? What are you passionate about in your preaching? How has someone else's passion moved you to take action? How can we make our sermons more storylike?
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Dr. James Nored (Doctor of Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a preacher, evangelist, church consultant, writer, and missional leader located in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
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