Critiquing Your Own Sermons – Part 2 of 6

Continued from Part 1

Photo credit: polandeze (via Flickr.com)DOES MY SERMON HAVE UNITY? THAT IS, DOES IT SAY ONE THING?

Was it not A.J. Gossip who said that the last and hardest task for him in preparing a sermon was to reduce it to one sentence? This is how we can test a sermon for unity.

When Norman Vincent Peale was a young pastor he committed himself to send his father a ten-word telegram each Saturday night stating the essence of his sermon for the next morning. A telegram for a sermon on the prodigal son might read: God has a big surprise for sinners who come home. Or, forgiveness is always a big surprise.

Unity is an artistic principle that all artistic endeavors must follow. For example, a composer strikes a theme and works with it from beginning to end. He may move from the major to the minor key, give the theme to the strings and then to the woodwinds. Or he may invert the theme, introduce sub-themes, and tuck in “episodes” to rest the audience. Either way, once the theme is struck, he unifies everything around it from beginning to end. The same may be said about a choice oil painting or even an award-winning quilt. So it should be with a sermon.

If a sermon is preached in points, the points should be stated so they treat two or three aspects of that one thing. The points may be parallel, or they may be sequential (one point leading naturally to the next), but the one central issue of the sermon is always in view. By contrast, if the points don’t show unity by the way they are stated they are likely to come through as individual mini-sermons — or even wandering thoughts.

How does one tell whether a sermon is unified or not? When a sermon has unity, people remember it. When it doesn’t, they don’t.

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