Another Point of View

Ok. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A certain man had two sons. The younger son asked for his inheritance and, upon receiving it, left home to go party. He went as far away as he could, spend all the money he had, and eventually fell on hard times. With his friends and his mind both gone, he takes a job feeding pigs who aren’t too keen on sharing their lunch with the hungry lad. Just as he hits rock bottom the thought occurs to him “Why don’t I just go home?” And he does. He goes home to find his father waiting, his older brother “hating”, and the community celebrating the lost son’s return.

Sound familiar?

Of course, you recognize the story by now. It’s the story of the “Prodigal Son”. You can easily identify this as a traditional rendering of the story. The facts (though paraphrased) are all there. The account flows just like it’s supposed to. You’ve heard this story, told in this way, before. Don’t look now, but that can become a problem. After all, you know what they say: “Familiarity breeds contempt”.

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More Than Meets The Eye

A review of the book “The Homiletical Plot” written by Eugene L. Lowery

With 66 books in the Bible and preachers with personalities as unique as the human fingerprint, it’s hard to imagine sermons that sound the same. And yet the problem is put on display from pulpits everywhere, each weekend, for all to see. Week after week in church after church listeners are exposed to the same stories being told in much the same way. While the content of scripture is hardly up for debate (the Prodigal Son always comes home to his father), the similar conclusions, applications and even illustrations beg the question “Can we look at this another way?”

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Some Helpful Homework…

There’s always room for improvement. The question however, is how exactly do we go about the business of getting better? Reading broadly and thinking deeply are sermon-building staples. However, most successful preachers will admit that learning from those who are effective communicators is one of the best ways to sharpen your own skills. Please don’t get confused. You are neither stealing someone else’s material or appropriating someone else’s style. The goal is to observe and adopt the best practices of effective communicators in order to develop and grow.

In my journey as a preacher and public speaker I have come across communicators that I admire. Some are more popular than others and all have their unique styles of organizing content and delivery. I have benefited from observing and learning and I believe that anyone who takes the time to study these preachers will also grow.

A few things before I continue:
This list is not exhaustive. Everyone has a favorite food, a favorite color and a convincing reason why their choice is the best. Feel free to add names to this list! The goal is not to convince you of the superiority of my selections. Rather, my aim is to select and study preaching models and mentors of your own.

I’ve categorized my favorites because, in my opinion, every speaker has their strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion some speakers are excellent at introductions but their applications leave much to be desired. On the other hand, some speakers may be geniuses at closing a sermon but their introductions may not be as strong. My categories are a way to help me. I hope they also help you.

My list stretches across denominational lines. I believe in an interdisciplinary, interdenominational approach to preaching because… why not! Inspiration and instruction can come from all walks of life. I can’t afford to miss the opportunity to sharpen my skills simply because of closed-mindedness. Neither can you.
With that being said, here are just a few of the preachers (and in some cases, sermons) I listen to and watch when I want to do my homework. Hopefully, this list inspires you to do some “helpful homework” as well.

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