Preparing Thematic Sentences and Paragraphs
The first thing I do in considering any text is understand it in its unique context. In other words, which book of the bible is it in? What chapter of that book? What comes before it and after it? How does the text fit into a unified theme within each book? If I preach from one book of ‘The Bible’ I make every effort to preach what God intended to communicate through it as his inspired word.
With that in mind I would expect ‘nailing’ the central thought of a text would be easy. No, it is so very hard for me. I am passionate that I am preaching from a text within a particular book, and so on. I have no regrets about that. Yet that passion is what makes my sermons ‘heavier.’
They have a lot of thought, but they do not seem to gel around a singular theme. I rarely hear a thematic sentence from a preacher. I hear singular words, thoughts and ideas, maybe a phrase or a clause presented as themes. Taking one thought and writing a thematic sentence faithful to the text is my life quest. I rarely preach, so that makes it the harder.
Can I preach? Yes. Am I good at preaching? Can be. The greatest compliment paid me is that my preaching comes from brokenness. The majority tolerate my long sermons because they get fed and feel cared for in them. I defend my lengthier preaching something like this: ‘Most healthy churches have longer sermons where they demonstrate a high value on the preached word. The problem with my sermons is not that they are too long, but that they are not of higher quality.’
Nothing can justify a thoughtless effort; nor can I justify my longer sermons (20 min+). The problem is that we pastors do not sit and workshop sermon preparation on an ongoing basis. I know good preachers who will not share their sermons. Personally, I do not want to preach someone else’s sermon unless the glove fitted. Then I would ask that person for permission to use their material liberally. I did that once to promote the denominational emphasis on reconciliation and forgiveness.
Preaching is also communication. An important part of communication is personality. Preachers also have personality. There can be no corpses in the pulpit. Dull preachers need to spend energy life listening for how God quickens them so that they can waken the dead from the pulpit (wake up sleeper – Ephesians). If the preacher is colorful, he needs to make sure that he uses his personality to draw attention to God and not himself. Our personalities do shape how we preach. Mine does. That is for better or worse. However, I come back to the need for preachers to workshop the writting of themes, thematic sentences and paragraphs based on the text, and not on ‘I, Me and My Personality.’