Preaching With Your Senses

Preachers determine the meaning of scripture so that they can convey that meaning to the congregation in the preaching moment. Preachers go to considerable lengths to make sure that they preach the truth and not error. They study the passage within the context of the chapter, book, and even the whole cannon of scripture. In many cases, the preacher derives valid and truthful points from the text and then present those vital truths to the people. This is good, but often when you take the points from the story, you remove the ability of the people to fully experience the truth that you are presenting. But before the people can experience the text, we have to both understand and experience the text ourselves.

But how do you experience the text? Well you should do a full exegesis as you have done in the past, but I would also suggest that you might allow all of your senses to guide your understanding of the text. Yes, allow all five senses of touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste to help you ask questions of the text that you are presenting.

Five senses iconsFor example, let’s look at the woman who grabbed for Jesus’ cloak in Luke 8:40-49. After doing your exegesis, now go into the text and look around. What do you feel when exploring, in your minds eye, the text. Do you feel the pushing and the shoving around as the crowd almost crushes Jesus? Do you see a frail woman whose loss of blood no doubt made her weak? Do you see the desperation as the woman who has expended all of her money, according to a parallel passage, comes to her last chance. Do you see the mass in front of her and her pushing through bobbing and weaving to get to the Master? Do you feel the people pushing away as they try to get to Jesus for themselves? Do you feel the clothing of the Master’s garment on the tip of her fingers as she lunges for a touch?

What does explicitly thinking about your senses do? It forces you to think about the story. It forces you to realize that this is not just a lesson for us today, and it is that, but it is also a story about a woman struggling for liberation that only comes from a connection to the master. It is a real story of a real desperate woman and her interaction with the master.

Thinking about these kinds of questions might give you a sermon title. Or maybe it could offer aid in ordering your sermon. Or maybe this type of analysis will help you in the presentation of the message. In any case, this type of analysis will encourage an experience with a desperate woman touching the master’s garment. This will provide a marvelous backdrop for your presentation.

Now some may argue that this kind of analysis is not going to be helpful, or they may argue that they already do this. And that is fine, but before you throw it away, think about explicit questions that come from your senses.

Many preachers exegete the text so that they can understand intellectually the Bible and preach a bible lecture that informs the people. That is good, but take it a bit further and convey a story that we not only experience intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. Address the whole being by allowing your senses to aid in the exegesis. I am sure that this will help you present the truths of the Bible.



Sherman Haywood Cox II

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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