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Creating Effective, Life-Changing Sermons

We live in a time in which a “lack of belief in absolutes,” causes preachers to be hesitant to proclaim and honor Scripture, according to Dr. E. Dewey Smith Jr., pastor of the House of Hope Atlanta, in Decatur, Georgia. But we can still preach the Word of God, he said at the 2014 Gardner C. Taylor Distinguished Preaching Series held at Christian Theological Seminary. In an engaging hour-long presentation at the Academy of Preaching and Celebration, Rev. Dr. Smith noted that whether we consider the Bible the inerrant Word of God or humanity’s best intention to express what God said, “authentic proclamation...[is] the presentation of Scripture to bring the ‘wasness’ of Scripture into the ‘isness’ of now.”

Smith has a guiding formula to help him create effective, life-changing sermons. He says effective preaching considers “the hook, book, look, took” of a text:

The hook “is that thing that is a relevant issue that grabs attention...[and] sets a goal” for listening.

The book is “the text that can be utilized to address a certain issue.” The book “relieves the tension.”

The look deals with the approach that is taken in getting the message across: expository, narrative, deductive, inductive, topical, textual. It is the “methodology you utilize.” Too often we espouse one specific approach, he said, but “the text itself can dictate the approach.”

Finally, the took is not the emotional reaction, but the behavioral response. When preaching is effective, lives are changed and people leave with “homework” to do.

You might also appreciate the resource, “How to Preach to Transform Lives,” a three-hour presentation by Rev. Jeff Manion of the Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids and a panel of practicing preachers, offered at the 2014 Worship Seminar held at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Also see our feature article, “The Challenges of Writing a Sermon” with tips for sermon preparation

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