Since I last blogged, months ago, I’ve been inspired to blog many times since I last did but…
I’ve been lazy, de-motivated and lacking in passion! I wrote about passion “not long ago” by which I mean in my last few blogs, and not in the last few weeks. I was inspired to write again while listening to a talk about fathers, working from the parable of the lost son.
The message was not, I feel aimed at myself. I am blessed with a loving and caring father. One who has always had my best interests at heart, and provided for me. Truly blessed. The talk tonight was about how wonderful our heavenly father, Abba-God, is perfect, loving kind and caring, that even though our earthly dads might not have been the best, He is.
Saying that, the whole session was fantastic. There was a real tangible presence of God! It was real, a tingling sensation that ran up from my toes across the rest of my body over 15-20 seconds. It was a little weird, but remarkably cool, which is a good summation of my experience of God.
While the speaker was speaking, I drifted in and out of my own thoughts, which is to say, I got distracted. I thought about methods of speaking, and really got on to thinking about structuring and archetypes of sermons and this kind of talk.
I reckon there are a few main types of sermons
One-offs, Series sermons like going through the book of Genesis, starting with an overview and set up sermon, main feature sermons, and then summary sermon.
As we were being spoken to I was trying to work out what kind of talk/sermon this was. It was certainly a one off, and some-what standard – not in style and delivery, which are always unique to the speaker, but in message and passage. The parable of the lost son is trotted out to do it’s rounds regularly. It’s like that favourite sermon that gets dusted off every now-and-again in order to fill a blank space.
This frustrates me. However this parable is for another time, and another post.
So, what, in my opinion is the point of talks and sermons? What are speakers (and writers!) aiming to do?
The purpose is to teach and inform people of new things about God, to reveal new insights into how He works, and other such mysteries. In it’s very essence it is a lesson, every lesson needs a plan, a setting, a start, middle and end. Sometimes the lesson is extended into a series, and so gets a whole sermon to set the scene and introduce the lesson, and a whole sermon to wrap it up and boil it down into a distilled, powerful form that you can remember and apply to your life.
Each sermon/talk/blog needs to have a lesson – take the lost son parable, you can focus on how amazing the representation of God is, a Father who loves and cares passionately for us.
The talk then needs to introduce that, set the scene – maybe modernise it, set out the original scene. Draw the audience in (I like to really get across how good a story teller Jesus really was!). Once the scene has been set, the passage introduced the point you are making needs to be established – God is a loving and caring father.
Then I would have gone in on to talk about how our actual parents don’t live up to God’s standards, as was said in the talk tonight, we can get parents who are absent (not there), passive (not interested), performance based (not accepting), authoritarian (not forgiving) and abusing (not loving).
From there I would have countered each one of those points by quoting a Bible verse that shows that God is there and listening, that God is interested and passionate, that God is accepting and encouraging, that God is forgiving and merciful, that God is loving, desperately loving us.
That God could and can do nothing but love us and do what is best for us! That’s a summery of how I would do it.
I would summarise in a prayer, thanking God for the way He loves us, He is the perfect Father, etc. etc. (Tsp). Then catchphrase (AKA the blessing in a church service) and done.
So in short, a sermon/talk/blog should be concise, have a clear and understandable message, be easy to summarise in a sentence or two. Along with actually teaching something new, or presenting an “old” idea in a new way/style/ from a new perspective.
I hope this is of some use, that you now understand the process than I pretend to stick to, and that if you ever have to speak in public or write to somebody then this comes in handy (even as a how not to do)! Life is not a mystery, life is following in your Father’s footsteps.