At this link you will find a bunch of sermon titles connected to the scripture. Some are not bad, some are terrible, some are bizarre. I find that looking at sermon titles can help to rejuvinate the creative juices. It might help you, but be careful, some are absolutely terrible, for example:
Among our most popular posts are the ones on Sermon Titles. There is just not that much information in book form or on the web on the issue. However, one might be able to learn from other people who have to title something. The other day I found this site that talks about titling a book.
There are 7 approaches. I began to think about how this might translate into a sermon title. So I looked at each one and thought about the implications for sermon titling. For this post I will take a sermon I preached entitled “God’s Perspective” on the book of Habakkuk that emphasized that Habakkuk was confused about God’s actions before he saw it from God’s perspective. I was never really happy with the title so perhaps this site can help me come up with a better one.
The first approach is to make a command. The example given on the website was “Write your Best Book Ever.” Perhaps we could use a title like “Change Your Perspective.” That doesn’t really feel like a command. Maybe a little more dramatic like, “Look Up!” Assuming that up will be a change of perspective rather than looking around. That feels a little better. Plus it easily translates into a refrain that can be used in the close of the sermon. “You might see the wicked winning….All I gotta tell ya is Look Up…..etc….” Look Up feels better to me than my original God’s Perspective.
The next approach is how to. The example given on the website was “How to Make Your Article Go the Extra Mile.” I don’t really like How-To titles because the sermon could degenerate into a lecture and as I have written elsewhere the sermon ain’t a lecture. But a how to title might be “How to Answer the Unanswerable Question.” Here the sermon emphasizes HabakkukÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s question of why God allows evil. The sermon attempts to answer the question. However, the sermon didn’t really answer that question so I probably should go on. Another title might be “How to Wait for The Answer.” That is better because the sermon actually addressees Habakkuk waiting for the answer that ultimately comes from God. One could use illustrations from life on waiting. In any case this sermon title is better than my original one.
The example given in the website was “5 Mistakes to Avoid That Drive Your Web Visitors Away In Less Than 2 Minutes.” A possible sermon title in line with this approach would be: “God’s Answers Don’t Make Sense.” The sermon could deal with the fact that God does answer, but often we dont’ want to follow or believe the answer.
A question-title might be: “Why Wait on the Answer?” Here Habakkuk had 3 questions and the last one he had to wait on the answer. However when the answer came it provoked a response of worship and thanksgiving in chapter 3.
A Big promise might be: “You Gonna Celebrate When you Hear the Answer.” I would probably shorten that to “Wait till you Hear it.” Here the sermon emphasizes that the answer will come, and when you hear it you will celebrate.
A thought in line with the previous ideas is “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Answer.” However that does not really seem to be confusing. I think I should try to mix metaphors. This is actually a very difficult thing to do. However a more appropriate title might be: “3 Questions, 2 Answers, and a Shout.” Here HabakkukÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 3 questions are reduced to 2 answers and then there is the more complex answer which becomes God’s answer and HabakkukÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s praise for it. So the 3rd answer is actually both God’s answer and HabakkukÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response to the answer. In previous questions Habakkuk was almost an adversary of God, but in this one the two become one in the praise.
A Top Benefit Sermon Title might be: “Praising for the Answers.”
One thing that is interesting about this exercise is that it helped to clarify what the sermon would be about. Such an approach is probably a valuable exercise for all preachers when thinking about titling a sermon. I don’t think that this list is the best one for sermons, but it can be used to think of better sermon titles. I think that the title, “Wait till you Hear it.” is much better than my original title, “God’s Perspective” so this method did work.
Sermon Titling is something that some consider to be irrelevant while others consider it to be very important. Sermons in the Black Preaching Tradition are often known to be titled well. Sometimes a great title will evoke praise or contemplation from the congregation before the sermon even begins. Because of this I have spent a little time thinking about titles.
I was looking in my old class papers and found a paper I wrote entitled “The Sermon Concealed: How to Create a Sermon Title.” First, one should have an idea of what the sermon is going to be about. The theme and the text should already be chosen. After that one should follow these steps.
Here you simply choose the sermon title that you might otherwise choose. What would you normally call the sermon?
Now J. Alfred Smith, in the book Preach On! gave some categories for artistic sermon title creation. I wish to create a sermon title that corresponds to each of his categories. Thus when we have our text and our sermon in mind we then attempt to create a title that corresponds to the balance category. After that we try to create one that corresponds to the simple sentence. Then exclamation, label,word play,rhyme, and finally question. I believe that some of these categories will be difficult to come up with and sometimes we will not be able to
come up with one that corresponds to each one, but an attempt would be made to get as many as possible. So now we should have 5-7 possible titles. In addition, one should add the sermon title that comes from the “flash of brilliance” described above.
At this point we are ready to evaluate the sermon titles. The first criteria for evaluating our sermon titles is variety. The preacher should not use the same category from Smith or titles that sound too much alike every sermon. In addition, the preacher should take care to not create sermon titles in such a way that they give away the sermon. For example, one might use Smith’s exclamation for only a certain kind of sermon. Thus when one hears the title one knows the kind of sermon to be preached.
Another important consideration is that the sermon title encapsulate the whole sermon including the celebration. Next, as noted above the sermon does the sermon title not give away the sermon.
Following these three steps will provide a list of possible sermon titles. I would encourage you to try this method when you are against a wall or are suffering from “preachers-block” when trying to name your sermons.
Peter Mead over at Biblical Preaching has a series going on Preaching without notes that I referred to in this post. In his first post he described why preaching without notes is a valuable method.
In the second post which can be found here, Mead emphasizes the HOW. Mead’s method can be summed up in one word, “internalization.”
He emphasizes first that it is not about memorizing the whole talk. This is a recurring theme among those who preach without notes and also public speakers. This is a key that is worth repeating, in most cases you do not have to memorize every word. It is important to memorize “WHAT” you will say, and not “HOW” you will say it.
It is probably worth memorizing the big idea, perhaps the statements of each move or point if you are going to state them explicitly, the opening few lines and the concluding few lines. Beyond that, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about internalization.
More could have been said by Mead on internalization. Also more should have been said about having a manuscript that flows sensibly. In other words, it is easier to memorize a sermon that flows in a way that makes sense, than one that doesn’t. However, following Mead’s methodology will do this because he states that one should type out the whole manuscript. This is Mead’s main method, it seems, to internalize the message, he states:
This manuscript allows you to work carefully on specific word choices and phrasing. The work of giving close attention to the manuscript is surprisingly effective at internalizing the wording so that it comes out again when you practice the message and/or deliver it.
Another important component is hinted at in the final paragraph, namely having a strong spiritual and prayer life. He states:
Preaching without notes is not about special memory skills. It is about full preparation that leads to the preacher being very at home in the preaching text. It is about prayerful preparation that allows the message to soak into the very fiber of the preacherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life.
As always, go ahead and try it. Even if you don’t do it every time, preaching without notes can cause your messages to soar. You are much more dependent on your preparation and the Spirit than you are with a manuscript. You are also much more fallible and can make bigger mistakes. However, with practice one can find one’s best way of putting together a sermon that can be preached without notes.
Brian Mavis has an article up on sermon title creation at this link. Mavis illustrates the importance of title by noting that the same book under different titles have had much different sales figures. Titles are very important. With that in mind one wonders why so little is written in homiletics texts on this subject. While I am by no means an expert, i have written on the subject in a few posts on this particular site.
In this article Mavis gives 10 rules for taking title from average to outstanding. These 10 are actually tactics that can be used to come up with a provocative title. I actually found the article helpful and suggest that you all read it.
The first rule is to Harness the power of popular culture. Here you use references to movies, songs, sports, or other things in the popular culture. As noted in previous posts the title alone can guide the sermon and might even point to the central metaphor of a sermon. I was listening to a sermon by Caesar Clark entitled “The Possibility of a Comeback.” The sermon’s central metaphor made us of the “comeback” image applying it largely to sports. The sermon just flowed from that start.
The second rule is to Play with Words. Mavis gives an example of how he played with words to go from a sermon title of “Jacob Wrestles with an Angel” to the much more provocative, “Punched by an Angel.” In addition to this you might want to play around with alliteration and other rhetorical techniques. Dr. Martin Luther King used to take his notebook and work on finding ways to say things with more rhetorical power. Perhaps we should practice this same technique.
Another rule is to Turn Conventional Wisdom on its head. I really like this idea in that it really causes people to sit down and listen to you. Next is a Call to Action. Tell people what to do. Another valuable rule is to Use Scripture. Henry Mitchell says that in preaching we are seeking o give the congregation a number of texts that they can count on when things get rough. If we connect the text directly to our sermon title then maybe they will also remember our sermon.
There are 5 others and I would encourage you to go visit the site to find them, but as noted in the previous post, you might want to try to come up with a title in each category and then choose the best one you come up with. Sermon titling is not easy, but with the categories that these preachers have given us we at least have somewhere to start.
For more information on sermon title creation, I would ecourage you to look at my simple method for the creation of a sermon title. Learn More Here..,
Learn the secrets of Good Title creation at my own “sermon title handbook” for a method for putting together good sermon titles.
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