Friday, August 01, 2014

What makes a good sermon?

By a rough estimate I've given roughly 1,000 sermons over the past 18 years.   Not sure if that qualifies me to be an expert yet or not, but lets say I've been around the block in preparing and delivering sermons.  As a child, youth and young adult, as well as the few sermons my schedule allows me to hear, I've listened to well over 1,000 sermons.  Yet how many do I really remember?   With some effort could I remember 10%, 5%, less?  

Maybe you have heard some sermons and left thinking,wow that was a great sermon.  Maybe you talked about it at lunch or on the drive home.  How many sermons could you recall the main idea from right now?  Go ahead, take your time . . . a few, a dozen, more?  Really?

I know when I'm satisfied with a sermon, it usually has just the perfect mix of connecting the Biblical story with our lives and leaves us all with a memorable example.  Thereare a few that still stand out to me in how a visual aid connected to a story that connected to the Biblical text and I think, yeah, that was fun!

What makes a sermon "stick"?  Chip and Dan Heath in their book "Make it Stick" suggests there are particular ways we can help our ideas to "stick."  All it takes is a little SUCCESs an acronym for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Stories.  Chances are you can find a few of these qualities in those sermons that you remember.

So, after reading a book about making it stick, what has stuck?  Throughout their work Heath and Heath have used "Stories" to keep the reader turning page after page.  Stories capture our interests and . . . we remember them.  A good story is VERY sticky.

It seems likely to me that the sermon you remember has a good story.  Its likely that this sermon made good use of the original story of the Biblical text, related it to our story and created a new way for you to see the connection of the two.  Maybe something unexpected or concrete stuck with you in such a way that you tell a story about the sermon.  

So, what makes a good sermon?