Sermon as Work of Art
The next pattern found in Allen’s Preaching Patterns is entitled Sermon Drawing from the Arts. Allen notes that preachers have drawn from the arts for illustrations of sermons often. However in this mode of preaching the art form is allowed to create a world that the people will participate in.
The community is invited into the art form which in some way is illustrative of the gospel message. The preacher would take the art form be it novel, short story, poem, play, movie, or song, and simply explain the art form. The preacher describes the art form slowly. The preacher gives information that is needed to interpret the art piece without making explicit connections or “applications” but simply to just explain it.
As the sermon progresses more and more of the connections between the text and the art form will become apparent, but it is important to recognize that the people will be experiencing the gospel through the art piece in a deep way.
I think that the key is to help the people experience the art piece and then slowly and gently help them experience the gospel through its connections to the piece.
The chapter describes a particularly powerful way to do this. Allen notes that a preacher can describe the art piece and then at the end of the sermon simply read the text and the connections would become clear.
I have not really heard someone do exactly what Allen notes, but I have heard preachers describe a movie and in the description make certain connections to the text. However, this is to bring “lessons” out of each section of the art piece rather than to look at the art piece as a whole. This is not in line with Allen’s picture in that Allen’s chapter wants the art form as a whole to become a world that people will enter in to experience the gospel.
This certainly can become powerful when done right, but I think that one must be highly skilled to pull this off. In addition, I think that most of us preachers would have to at least “tip the scales” towards the congregation understanding the connections by possibly using Biblical language in the description of the art piece or simply making “descriptions” that are highly “directed” towards understanding in light of the Gospel.