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ON PREACHING

Creative Sermon Change-Ups

By Doug Green


iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The Bible is a compelling book. More good news: if you are preaching through this Bible week after week, you ought to be a compelling preacher. Best news: if this is true, God’s Word ought to come alive in your congregation, causing them in the pew to fall in love with what He says.

That’s right, biblical preaching can be … well … exciting.

So, why does expository preaching often get a bad reputation, frequently associated with monotone lectures about ancient civilizations and antiquated languages? Could it be the deficiency of the presentation, not the content? Are there ways to spice up your preaching and keep your congregation intrigued –– even though they listen to you preach week after week?

Let me use a baseball metaphor and call these templates “change-up pitches.” These sermon templates give some new creative ways to say the same things, mixing up your predictable “fast ball” with freshness.

So, once you establish the content of a biblical text, there are thousands of — actually infinite — ways you can communicate it to your audience. You will not exhaust God’s creative power in you nor will you run out of things to say about His imaginative Word. Expository preaching can only be boring because the preacher has sidelined creativity. However, preaching that exposes the biblical idea of the text, at its best, ought to be compelling and life-changing. It should be anything but boring.

Here are some creative sermon forms. Try them soon:

First-Person Narrative (biblical character). Consider saying the same things you would say as the preacher, but through the voice of another character. Rather than the anticipated sermon on Psalm 23, preach the sermon as young David, the original author. Or, be a person from the church in Rome and tell your congregation about an important letter that just arrived from the apostle Paul.

Possibilities are endless: tell the story of Goliath from the giant’s point of view; the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the servant’s point of view; the crucifixion of Christ from the point of view of a person in Herod’s mob. Make God’s Word come alive. Your church will forgive you if you are not an accomplished thespian. In fact, they will be glad you care enough to be creative in your preaching.

First-Person Narrative (modern character). Preach the sermon through the eyes and experience of a modern person. Approach and speak about the text as a college student, a kid, an elderly man, an executive, or a gang member.

I once did a Christmas message about the role of the shepherds from the perspective of a night custodian, complete with mop and bucket. As I was “watching over my floors by night,” I verbally pondered what it must have been like to have my nocturnal work interrupted by the gift of heavenly beings announcing the birth of Christ. I presented the points in my sermon about Luke 2:8–20 while holding a mop.

Interview. If you are preaching through Romans 4 and Paul is referencing the story of Abraham, take on the role of Paul and interview another person in your church who will take on the role of Abraham. Sit at a table and break some Jewish bread while walking through the main points of this chapter. Turn Paul’s propositional points into questions Abraham can answer with the depth of his story from Genesis.

Once I recruited another preacher, Carl, to be Simeon, as told in Luke 2:21–40. I put him in a wheelchair and visited him at the nursing home. I took the role of a newspaper reporter trying to find out what it must have been like to see the baby in the temple.

Interaction. I preached through the Book of Revelation. In chapter 4 (a description of heavenly worship), I used various forms of media (music, video, responsive reading, instrumental solo, etc.) to preach the sermon. Earlier I coordinated with the musicians to turn the entire service into the sermon — both Word and music (i.e., the sounds of heaven). We started with church housekeeping issues and explained the rest of the service (all but those first 7 to 8 minutes) would be the sermon. Rather than just talk about what happens around the throne of God, we did it. Experientially. We worshipped like they worship in heaven. Some say it was their favorite sermon ever.

Video Shoot. Preach off-site earlier in the week in a setting that would add context to your message. Record it on video and show it in lieu of your typical sermon. For example, record your sermon at a mortuary or a cemetery if your text is from 1 Corinthians 15. Or, go to a vineyard if you are preaching John 15:1–17. Or, you might go to the local high school stadium if you are preaching Hebrews 12:1–3.

Today’s audiences are accustomed to receiving important information from video screens; they will appreciate the hard work you put into your message earlier in the week. Here is an ongoing benefit: if your setting is a local landmark, the message will be reinforced every time a member of your congregation sees it.

Children’s Sermon/Object Lesson. Bring the kids into the adult service and have them sit on the floor near the pulpit. Give a children’s sermon complete with an object lesson. Ever notice how well the adults pay attention when you do this? If you are really brave, turn the whole sermon into an object lesson and see it stick.

Testimony. Illustrate your sermon points with live testimonies from your congregation.

Tag-Team. Use more than one preacher, taking turns with each new point.

Sensory. Employ smell, taste, and touch alongside the typical sight and sound.

Your faithfulness to preach through a book of the Bible week after week is the bedrock of employing creativity. Your marriage as pastor and congregation gives you license to mix it up with creativity — it’s a romance needing a spark every so often. If you are reticent to take the dive and devote an entire sermon to one of these creative templates, then devote a section of your sermon and grow your confidence.

However you do it, pray about it, commit it to the Lord, and be amazed by how much favor He gives to those who love to find new ways to say old truths about His heart for the people He loves.

After all, He is a compelling God.

DOUG GREEN, founding pastor, North Hills Church, Brea, California

 

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