I have not totally defined the appeal which has caused some confusion. I should have known better in that this website has many different preachers from many different traditions. So during this series on appeals we should define what do I mean by an appeal?
The appeal is the final part of the sermon where the preacher asks the people to accept and follow the message as presented and become more faithful followers of God’s in-breaking Kingdom.
Someone asked if an appeal was the “application of a sermon.” The answer is no. There are normally various moments of application during a sermon. As we present various topics and points, we demonstrate their application. This demonstration is often a look at how someone applied the point.
However, an appeal is not a demonstration of the point, but a request that the hearer follow the point. We are past understanding when it is time for the appeal and now we are simply asking the people to accept and/or follow the message as presented.
Another reader asked if the appeal is the same as the alter call for salvation. Accepting Jesus Christ and salvation is a component of many appeals. However the form of the appeal need not be a call to the alter. Sometimes there are no visible manifestations of acceptance of the appeal. Other times the preacher may call for other visible manifestations such as raising the hand, standing up, or even a verbal sign. So yes an alter call is a form of the appeal, but not the only form.
I want to give a basic form for an appeal at the end of the sermon. The first component of the appeal is to accept the message which calls the people to greater faithfulness in some way. We ask the people to follow whatever we presented in the sermon. You may or may not call them to the alter, you may have them stand as is often the case. At any rate, you want to make sure that you have a clear call to action that is from your sermon.
Another part of the appeal is to accept Jesus Christ. We are Christians and thus every sermon will have some piece that speaks to the role of Jesus Christ in the life of our people. There may be someone who has not accepted Jesus Christ as savior and lord in that one’s life. Here we call for them to accept Jesus.
There may be people in your congregation who are simply attending your church but have not joined. Another component of many appeals is the time we ask those individuals to join this particular congregation. If people are regularly attending then they may feel the need to take the next step and become a member of that congregation. Your appeal should call for action from those people.
Note that you are calling all hearers to follow through on the message presented. You are also calling on those who have not ever accepted Jesus Christ to do that. Finally, you are calling those who are attending your congregation but are only on the periphery to a closer more intimate encounter with the congregation.
I am not sure the origin of the idea that I advocate that all preachers must whoop in every sermon or it is not an effective sermon. Neither do I know where some get the idea that I teach that it ain’t Black Preaching if you are not whooping.
Again, I must clear the air…I believe that whooping can be a valid expression of the emotive dimension of humanity. I believe that we as Black Preachers should be careful of simply dismissing it as “ignorant” or not valuable.
After having said that, the answer to the question is obvious…you do not have to whoop to be an effective preacher. Many good and even great preachers never whoop at all. No don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must do anything to be an effective sermon besides understanding the word, understanding the context in which you preach, and understanding how to deliver that word.
To be honest, some people have no business whooping. Some people’s attempts are so poor that it turns the worship service into a joke. Other preachers are effective in whooping, but do not know how to plan, prepare, or present effective sermons. Those people are simply attempting to use whooping to whip the people up into a frenzy where they don’t care that they have not heard an effective sermon.
Then there are the whoopers who whoop at the wrong place or the wrong time. It ain’t time to whoop during Sunday School. It ain’t time to whoop when you supposed to be announcing the opening hymn.
Don’t go whooping about Jesus being the light of the world when you supposed to be announcing the license plate number of the car that has its lights left on. You laugh, but I hear stories like that from the readers. So it needs to be said. As I noted in the Associate Ministers Training, Do Your Role And Sit Down!!!!
Don’t get me wrong, there are some preachers who have the ability tow hoop, but don’t. That is certainly their perogative as well. There is no requirement!! …I ain’t attempted to introduce one.
Yes some people shouldn’t whoop…If you can’t whoop or you shouldn’t whoop…or it ain’t time to whoop….DON’T WHOOP!!!
One of the problems that often rears it’s head in African American worship is when celebration is abused. Martha Simmons referred to this dynamic among some whoopers as the “dark side of Whooping.” This is when the power of whooping is used to mask a preacher who has not done his or her work to provide a solid presentation.
Sadly, Whoopers are not the only ones who are guilty of this problem. There are many African American preachers who routinely use celebration to trick the people into believing that they are great preachers while the people go away empty. They are happy and shouting and talk about how great the preacher preached, but they often can’t even tell you what the sermon was about, let alone apply it to their daily lives.
This discussion has caused me to think of the primary cardinal sin of false celebration. If you commit this one, you will make it very difficult for the people to experience true celebration of the Gospel as presented in your sermon.
The first cardinal sin is the unrelated celebration. This is perhaps the most common one. The preacher senses that the people are not on board with the message, or perhaps the message was simply sub-par due to the preacher’s lack of preparation. Whatever the case, the unrelated celebration will obliterate the sermon’s point form the minds of your hearers. It will be gone. They will not even be able to recall it. Celebration is just too powerful to be used to prop up a poor sermon.
Sometimes a preacher will preach a powerful sermon and remove it from the people by celebrating something that is tangential to the main point. This is better than the previous preacher who preached a poor sermon, but it is still very problematic for the people will leave only thinking of that celebration. They may say: “He sure can whoop,” but they won’t know how to deal with issues in real life that your sermon was to address.
Last night while listening to sermons on youtube and other places, I found a preacher who was “whooping.” As we know, the whoop is one type of sermonic close used by some preachers in the African American preaching tradition. The preacher was summarizing and celebrating the truth of the message. The call and the response, which is an important component of the African American Preaching tradition was in full effect. Then the sermon almost came to a standstill and never fully recovered. The preacher broke the call and response by encroaching on the “response” time by changing the length of the phrases. Once the preacher has come to the close and has established a set number of syllables in his or her phrases, the preacher should not break this with a particularly long, or particularly short phrase.
The Call and Response requires that there is give and take in the close of the sermon. If the people are to celebrate the message, they need to experience it. And to experience it, we must foster it with the call and response.
However, this preacher was in a form where he would preach 5-8 syllable phrases and then allow the people to respond. Then 5-8 more syllables and allow the people to respond. But then he attempted something close to 16 syllables. And the moment dissapated. The number of syllables is immaterial. The important point is that once the number of syllables are established in the close that you do not deviate drastically from that number.
Two things went wrong here. First the preacher attempted to introduce something that should have been introduced in the body of the sermon. The whooping celebrative close requires that there should not be an introduction of new material. We are simply celebrating the truth that was revealed in the sermon.
Next, the preacher did not keep the phrases of generally the same length. Let us assume that you are at the very end of a sermon and you are using phrases of 3-4 syllables like this:
Preacher: And God Said,
P: Let there be Light,
P: is in darkness
P: and needs light
P: is there anybody in here
Now let us say that you want to add a longer sentence you can do a few things. One thing you can do is simply split up the sentence.
And somebody might know of a problem they are fighting with.”
P: somebody knows
P: of a problem
P: that they are fighting
Sometimes repetition is used to tie these short phrases together like:
P: Somebody knows
P: you got a problem
P: unsolved problem
Now if your phrase is too short, you might add in some fillers. I have heard preachers use words like “yeah” or “Hear me?”
In short, once the call and response has been set up in the close of the sermon, then we do not break that give and take by adding phrases that are either too long or too short
Celebration is an important component of preaching. This is the part of the sermon where the preacher raises up the truth of the sermon to be experienced by the people. There are many ways to do this tactically, but my study of sermons show that a very common technique is for the preacher to “celebrate the sermon.”
Now the preacher can celebrate the sermon just by showing her or his enthusiasm about the truth of the Gospel disclosed in the sermon. There is nothing like a preacher who is not into their message. Sometimes there are preachers who are giving great content, but are not really into their message. Simply put, if the gospel was strongly given, then you aughta feel it. If you don’t feel it the people won’t feel it.
Another way the preacher can celebrate the sermon that is related and can work in tandem with this is to enter the “sermon world” celebrating sermon. By sermon world I mean the theoretical world created by the sermon. There is the Bible world which is the historical world where the Bible history took place. There is the contemporary world, where the people live. And then there is the sermon world. The sermon world is the place where the preacher bounces back and forth from describing the Bible world and going to the contemporary world and back.
For example, C. L. Franklin in the sermon “Pressing On” in the Sermon World talks about Paul which is the Bible World, and then he talks about implications for our living today which is the contemporary world. He also, in the sermon world, uses hymns and ends with a parabolic story. Thus the sermon world is separate from but related to the contemporary world and the Biblical world.
Now Franklin becomes the chief celebrant by turning from a narrator to a participant in the sermon. He ends this sermon by celebrating that he will press on. We see that same technique used in “Eagle Stirreth Her Nest” where Franklin celebrates that his soul will take up wings and fly. I then pulled out a few older issues of African American pulpit and found that other preachers often do the same thing at the very end of their sermons. While this is not the only way to end a celebrative sermon, it is a very common technique that should be in the repertoire of celebration preachers.