Do you ever find yourself on Sunday morning not quite ready to teach the sermon you have spent hours and hours preparing? I have. Probably more times than I would like to admit. However, one Sunday my preaching reached an “Aha!” moment when I thought about how Jesus approached his listeners.
I went back in time and pretended I was in the audience and listened. I realized that Jesus was telling me a story instead of giving me a series of points to remember. Could he be described as a “point-less preacher”? I’m not saying that he wasn’t making a point. He always was. But his goal was to get me to remember the story and then think about it later. From that day on, I abandoned the quest of finding “points” and became a “point-less preacher.”
So what am I really saying? I am not suggesting that Jesus did, or that we should, preach meaningless, unorganized sermons that are guided tours down favorite rabbit trails rather than messages from the Master of the universe. Neither am I advocating an abandonment of propositional preaching of truth. There are many of us in the under-40 set who do believe in objective truth and stake our lives and preaching on it.
I am merely raising the possibility of occasionally moving away from “three points and a poem” or from another favorite, “the multi-point alliterated sermon.” I am actually suggesting that we become, well, pointless. I am asking if we dare explore other homiletical approaches to sermons while staying true to the text. Instead of a series of points which need to be covered in a sermon, imagine what would happen if we saw a sermon as a journey—an adventure through a portion of the Word of God?
Now, I would not encourage a complete abandonment of the aforementioned types of sermons, and I readily admit many people have had their Eternal direction changed, have been Edified in their growth as a believer, and are Encouraged to share the Gospel with their neighbor. See, I can alliterate. And I would argue for the foreseeable future that many more people will respond in like manner.
But what if the native language in which our people communicate is changing? What if we no longer think in terms of outlines?
Research indicates that only seven percent of communication in face-to-face conversation is conveyed verbally. That leaves 93 percent of communication in the delivery. When Jesus taught a story, he was engaging the whole person. All 100 percent!
Yet, many of us, including myself, continue to organize the stories of God in an outline fashion with three major points, with a series of supporting points, examples, applications. This line of thinking is linear—top down, as if we were merely reading an outline. It has served us well, but what if it does not connect with how information is received today? Are we willing to change for the sake of the Gospel?
In other words, to borrow an idea from Gary Smalley, might we be broadcasting in one “love language” (or in this case, a “communication language”) when our audience receives in another? Now, I am not dismissing the Gospel as ineffective in these days. Quite the contrary. It would seem that Jesus’ teaching and preaching in an orally-based, rather than written or printed, society thrives in such an incubator as we find ourselves.
So instead of spending all of our time dissecting the passage with our exegetical skills we have worked so hard to master, instead of pointing out every variance and shade of possible meaning in a multi-point format, why don’t we just get to the main point, reveal the story, and allow the Holy Spirit to help draw the conclusion for the listener? What if we presented all of the drama without the dissection?
What if we let the text flow and guide the format for communicating instead of trying to find three points and then forcing them to all start with the same letter? What if, instead of performing an autopsy of the message and the words that made it, we highlight what could happen if we simply let his story speak?
Maybe we should all strive to become point-less, at least every once in a while. I think Jesus was. (Neil Franks is pastor of First Baptist Church, Branson.)