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Home School Of Preaching A Method for Discovering Good Models of Preaching

A Method for Discovering Good Models of Preaching

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A Method for Discovering Good Models of Preaching


J. E. Adams


Study of Online Audio Sermons


The best way to study sermons is through video tape, where the full

impact of delivery (the use of voice and body) as well as content comcs

through. But we are only on the edge of such capability on a widespread

scale. So for the present we must be contented with what we have: audio

tapes. Yet, we can learn much from them if we use them wisely. But before

we learn to use them, we must learn to choose them.


Audio tapes now provide a large source, readily available. And, to use

these tapes properly is of great help. But the problem is, there are so many

tapes. How does a preacher determine which ones are worth studying?

The main point of this article is to give you guidelines for selection.

Obviously, bodily action will be absent, and something of the sermon

will be lost, but in choosing tapes to study you must make allowance for

that fact. (To discover how much is conveyed by the body, turn off the

TV sound and watch the picture alone. Note how much bodily action

occurs; discover the important use of facial expression to disclose many

emotional nuances. Watch, especially, the use of hands and the tilt and

movement of the body.l)


Initial Selection


When using audio tapes, listen first for total impact-don't try to analyze

the sermon yet (to analyze something is to separate out its various

elements); that may come next. If you are not impressed by it, don't waste

further time on it. Put it aside at once. If, on the basis of total impact, you

believe the sermon is worthy of more careful study (and those that are

seem to be few and far between these days ) , then in order to determine

whether the message is worth keeping as a model to study further, I suggest

the following method of analysis:



Play (and re-play) the sermon for verbal (auditory) analysis. What do

you hear? (I am not thinking here of content.) Is the pitch high or low


l. Clearly, this will convince you, that (unless the only) significant elements will be missing.

2. Not complete, but (perhaps) suggestively useful sermon is made for listening

for its clues. ( high pitch indicates tension; low pitch, relaxation ) ; does it vary? How

does the content influence pitch? The content ought to control all. If you

see a clear correspondence between content and pitch, in which the

preacher allowed the truth to control him rather than confining and

conforming content to his own pre-formed speech patterns, you will

probably have a sermon worth keeping for further study and possible emulation

in the use of voice.


While listening, particularly listen for the use of non-verbal sounds. The

preacher who is free enough to make non-verbal noises while preaching

in order to better communicate (e.g., oof!, aaah!, clank!, ding-a-ling-a-ling,

etc. ) is usually freer in the pulpit than most, and may have much to teach

those who have not yet learned much freedom.


Listen too for rate: how fast, how slow does the preacher speak?

Is there good variety? Again, is rate controlled by content? Once more,

variety and content control indicate a speaker probably well worth studying

from this aspect.


Listen also for volume. Here, of course, the electronic medium will

enter in and distort (somewhat) the true picture. But high and low volume

with content-controlled variety again can be discovered by careful

listening in awareness.s


Listen for pulpit pounding-is it appropriate, overdone, altogether

absent? How about audience responss-lsughter? Amens? Other? Here

the feedback will tell you something about how well the message was



Does the preacher sound excited? Concerned? Moved? Perfunctory?

Dull? Uninterested or unconvinced? What does his voice seem to convey?

These elements are adequate for determining whether or not the tape

should be filed away for further, more detailed examination as a model.

Remember, one man's abilities in the verbal area may not match his content

or his stylistic work, so when you file the tape for further study, indicate

on the label just where you found the strengths that you wish to

examine: i.e., "Strong in illustrative material and rate."




If on your initial listenings you think that you have a sermon with exceptional

content, then I suggest that you take the time to transcribe it on

paper for further analysis.

" First, as you do, you will notice the vast difference between good

written and good oral English. Good oral English usually looks bad on

paper (of course bad oral English can too-so that is not an infallible


3. Awareness is the key to analysis. Until one all seems to run together.

knows what elements to look for, test!). But we'll come back to that under "stylistic analysis" (use of words, grammar and syntax).


Here I want to suggest that you ask such questions as: Does the sermon

open up a passage of Scripture for the listener? Does the authority of the

message stem from clear exposition of the Bible? Does the preacher seem

to understand the intention of the Holy Spirit in the passage ancl constantly

pursue it? Do the major points all relate to it? Are there extraneous

elements unrelated to the intent of the passage?


Further, ask: Is the introduction compelling-i.e., does it involve the

listener in the subject from the outset? Does the conclusion relate directly

to the intention of the sermon, and does the preacher leave the

listener with the challenge to make the change involved in that intention?


Does the body of the sermon move according to a logical progression?

Are there smooth transitions of thought? How well does the preacher argue

or state his case? What problems or questions arise in your mind that

others are likely to ask? Does he anticipate these too; and answer them?


What about his illustrations? Do they truly illumine his point? Do they

make it more vivid, easier to understand or remember? Are they appropriate

to what they illustrate? Of what sort are they-short examples

or incidents? Longer stories? Well worked out? Do they help? Is there

a variety?


Does he use passages of Scripture other than those upon which he is

speaking? If So, does he use them well or is there only Bible-flipping?

Does he use them to clarify or amplify the preaching pass age? Does he

briefly but plainly explain them or only cite them?


Is the content abstract or concrete? Applied throughout or only at the

end? Does the preacher truly preach about God and the congregation

(in the present tense) from the Bible, or does he only lecture about Bible

characters and events (in the long ago and far away)? Does the listener

get involved at the outset and stay involved throughout? Does the exposition

of the passage seem important to the listener, or is it more suitecl

to the interests of a literary, historical or grammatical critic?




I mentioned the difference between oral English and written English.

The first is more concrete, looser, less grammatically exact, more repetitious,

more limited in use of vocabulary-especially of technical terms

or jargon. Oral English must be comprehended at the speaker's 13fsthe

first time over. Written English can be more compressed and concise.

The reader can take it at his pace; stop, think, look up words in the

dictionary, etc. The speaker must do all this for the listener. So, is this

sermon in good oral English-or is it bookish?


Do the words express ideas vividly? With precision? Concretely? Or

abstractly? Does he speak of a "car or of a "red ,79 Celica Toyota,,? Does the preacher overwork terms?


Does the sermon contain vivid description? Is there dialogue? Does it tend to move in the present or in the past? Can you .,see,,, .,hear,,, .,taste,,,

"smell," or "feel" what the preacher talks about-is there sense appeal? Are there climaxes of thought?



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