Category Archives for "Homiletic Theory"

The Stages of Exegesis – Updated

I just realized that I do not have any posts that give an outline of my method for exegesis. Here is the basic process.

  1. Prayer – You should not open the Bible without praying for the guidance of the Spirit in understanding the principles found in the text.
  2. Initial Observations – Now before you really get into thinking deeply about the text you want to get the initial impressions. Read the text and simply note whatever comes to your mind. A title may come to your mind, a theme may come to your mind, and even a gospel song or hymn. Whatever comes to your mind write it down. Here you are at your most creative point. However you will need to refine these observations later.
  3. Analyze the Story of the Text – Here you look at the text as a story. Who are the players in the text? What role do they play? What do they do? Next where is God and what is God doing in this text? And finally where is humanity and what is humanity doing? What if the text is not a narrative? Well then you might look at the story “behind” the text. You miht look at the story of the author of the text. Now refine your observations from your initial read. Please note this comes from reading the text alone without any commentaries or other study helps.
  4. Analyze the History of the Text – What was going on at the time that can help you understand the text. Now you can begin looking at other resources like a good Bible dictionary. Here you want to know who wrote the text and what was the occasion that brought forth the writing?
  5. Analyze the Arguments in the Text – It is one thing to know what the text is trying to convey, but it is another thing to know “how” the author conveyed that truth. In other words what words were used to teach the truth? What illustrations were used? Preachers can often find the illustrations in the text itself.
  6. Analyze the Theology of the Text – What is the author of the text trying to say about God? What kind of God does the text project?
  7. Analyze the use of Power in the Text – Where is the power in the text? Who has it and how is it used? Does humanity have power? What kinds of power are in the text? Are they spiritual or temporal? What is the nature of the power? Is someone or something trying to take the power?
  8. Analyze the Senses in and from the Text – Look at the text for things that affect the senses. What do you smell in the text? What do you see in the text? What do you feel in the text? One might see a rugged mountain sloped downward when we see Jesus in the desert. This might be of use in our sermonic preaching. What about the smells. It might be interesting that the prodigal son saw the bright lights of the city as welcoming when he was coming, but by the end of the story, the were a repellant. Think about how the text affects your senses.
  9. Analyze the Feelings in and from the text – How does the story make you as a reader feel? How do the different characters in the text feel?

Now after having gone through these steps you are ready to move to the sermon. Simply summarize and synthesize all of your work into two pages and then you are ready to move on to structuring the sermon.

Updated 11/23/08

Should You Imitate Other Preachers?

Teresa Fry Brown continues onto another point as she presents Charles Adams’ 9 suggestions to preachers found on page 164 and 165 of her book Weary Throats and New Songs. This one has to do with imitating other preachers.

The thought here is to strive to be yourself. Certainly one can learn from other preachers. I have written about this in many other articles. Just as the Jazz musician listens to other musicians, certainly we will listen to preachers and gain something from them. However, it is very problematic to imitate someone, especially when one has heard the one that you are copying. The people have come to hear you preach so you preach. God has called us to preach in our own gender, ethnicity, and denominational tradition. Copying will short circuit your creativity and make you redundant. If I want some big name preacher to preach, I will get them, but if I have called you, I want you. Let God speak to the people with your voice.

Avoiding a Dull Sermon

Dr. Charles Adams presented a class entitled “Preaching, Black and White.” During one of the lectures he gave some “do’s and don’ts.” Teresa Fry Brown wrote up notes from that lecture on page 164 and 165 of her book Weary Throats and New Songs. These were to help the preacher deliver their sermons more effectively. In the next few posts we are going to discuss these very important pointers.

The first point is to “Avoid being dull, tedious, or laborious.” Then Adams (through Brown) stated that “Vocal energy paired with sound theology and knowledge of language give life to a sermon.” There are three components to this pointer that all deserve some illumination.

Vocal Energy

First there is vocal energy. Here I think that Adams is getting at what I try to speak of as “sermon intensity.” Here the preacher simply lets the natural enthusiasm of the preacher come through. If the preacher is not enthused about the message, then the preacher is not preaching the right message. Now one should hasten to add that enthusiasm will demonstrate itself in different ways as the different preachers allow their individuality to show, but there will be enthusiasm.

Sound Theology

The second component of Adams’ point is that there should be a “sound theology.” This point is largely about theological integrity. I have a friend who is very frustrated with his pastors preaching. The sense of frustration does not come from a disagreement with his pastors theology. His frustration comes from the totally theologically inconsistent preaching that his pastor gives. One day he is preaching a point, and the next week he is preaching the exact opposite without even referring to the possible inconsistency. Now Adams was probably speaking of having a correct theology, or at least one that majors in the majors of the Biblical message, but I think if we push Adams’ idea a bit further we can say that one’s theology should at least attempt to be consistent. Certainly it will never be totally consistent, but integrity reminds us that we should at least explain the struggles we are having rather than to pronounce some truth one day and then a week later pronounce the opposite. A good book to help the preacher work through his or her theology is Claiming Theology in the Pulpit by John McClure and Burton Cooper

Knowledge of Language


Finally there is knowledge of language. I think that Adams is attempting to speak about simply knowing how language works. Here we might take into account a knowledge of not just language, but also how people process and hear sermons particularly. For example, people cannot remember a ton of unrelated facts, so a sermon that engages in additions that are irrelevant to the main point are simply wasting the time of the preacher and the people. It would at least make it more difficult to determine the main point of the sermon.

I remember hearing a preacher once who let his enthusiasm come through and even had a reasonably sound theology, however his sermons were very hard to listen to. You would feel fatigued after hearing one of his sermons. After some analysis, I realized that the preacher did not make good use of this knowledge of language. He put in a ton of irrelevant side notes that detracted from his message to the point that people simply gave up finding a point. To avoid being dull, let us wed all of these points together in our proclamation of the gospel.

Learning to Preach – Books to Help You

[amazon cover 0800629973]One of the most frequently asked questions that new preachers ask is where is a book to help me learn to preach? There are actually tons of such books. I have written on this question in the past on this website as well as another one. Even though that is true, I will take it up again in this article. I think that an African American Preacher needs a few resources to help them to preach.

General Introduction to Preaching Book

First, a general textbook on sermon construction is needed. For that I would suggest that one purchase the excellent book edited by one of my former homiletics professors, John McClure, entitled Best Advice for Preaching. The book can be read easily by preachers without a seminary education. Another nice thing is that you have many homilititians who have contributed to this book.

[amazon cover 0687047447]Another good book is The Witness of Preaching by Thomas Long. This is a little longer work, but well worth the effort to go through it. Long uses the metapohr of the preacher as “witness.” Another book that we used in our introduction to preaching course is The Practice of Preaching by Paul Scott Wilson. I especially liked the step by step instructions for exegesis. One book that many keep emphasizing to me is Haddon Robinson’s book Biblical Preaching. Many have been helped by it.

African American Preaching Book

An African American preacher needs to have a book that can help him or her understand the fundamentals of preaching in the Black tradition. There are a number of good works on this subject. I would suggest especially looking at either Henry Mitchell’s Celebration and Experience in Preaching or his student Frank Thomas’ book They Like to Never Quit Praisin God.

In addition, you might be interested in my own book You Can Preach which you can download here for free.

Just One Book?

If I were pressed to give just one book, I would suggest purchasing Best Advice for Preaching and then download the free book You Can Preach. My book provides step by step instructions to construct the sermon in the Black Preaching Tradition and Best Advice for Preaching will provide a framework for understanding my book as well as open the door for deeper study if you wish to tackle other works on the subject of Preaching.

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