In Preaching – Use More Than One Tool

It is sometimes said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer….every problem looks like a nail.” Well we all have seen this in preaching. What am I talking about? The preacher who always sees the arrogance of humanity in every text. It doesn’t matter the text, that is all they see. Other preachers see “getting a closer relationship with Jesus” in every text…Many of us have some theological tendencies that will push us to seeing a particular theme in every text, whether there or not.

Yes, I was listening to a church leader whose responsibility was to summarize the Sunday school lesson every week. That leader would always say that the lesson’s point was to “have a closer relationship with Jesus.” Certainly that is an important theme in the theology of many, but is it the only theme? Is it always the purpose of every text?

People are amazed at how some preachers are able to see their perspective in any text. Well, it is easy to see something when that is all you are looking for. Look at yourself as I must look at myself. My theological tendencies include God being with us in our pain and heartache. That basic assumption, and others, are deep within me as I attempt to interpret any text. This is the “glasses” through which I look in my attempts to understand any text given to me…

But these glasses can become blinders that remove from me the possibility of seeing anything else if I am not careful. Preachers, it is imperative that we do some sort of sermonic planning. It is imperative that we learn our own assumptions and theological tendencies. And it is imperative that we learn the needs of our congregations. We must fact all of these things together to understand what and how to preach.

Then when we do that, we may be able to move beyond thinking the whole world is a nail, because the only tool we have is a hammer.

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Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Revised Common Lectionary
5th Sunday of Lent (February 26, 2017)
  • OT: Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Psalm: Psalm 130
  • Epistle: Romans 8:6-11
  • Gospel: John 11:1-45
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