Session Three: The Integrative Sermon

Kenton Anderson is back, describing the approach he describes in his book Choosing to Preach. He calls this the integrative approach (abductive and behavioral). This is like the musician who performs a song. It respects both the listener and the text. It also values both head and heart.

This approach aims for:

  • a compelling argument like the declarative approach
  • the underlying mystery like the pragmatic approach [comment by Darryl: does the pragmatic approach really reveal the underlying mystery?]
  • the human story like the narrative approach
  • the motivating vision like the visionary approach

We don't have to do this. We can choose to put down roots and refuse to integrate.

Once we choose to integrate, there are a couple of approaches:

  • to go on a journey and integrate these approaches consecutively. Example: start with a story, teach, then look at the problem by looking at our struggle with the teaching. I go in this order: what's the story, what's the point, what's the problem, what's the difference?
  • to tear down the borders and integrate these approaches concurrently (i.e. mix it all up and include all four approaches)

Elements of a good sermon:

  • God's voice is heard (deductive)
  • the listener is respected (inductive)
  • the mind is fed with truth (cognition)
  • the listener is motivated to obedience (affection)

The consecutive approach:

  • What's the story? - the human element of the text that intersects with the stories of the listeners
  • What's the point? - the "big idea" of the text and the logic that undergirds it
  • What's the problem? - the problem in our fallen natures that needs to be addressed by the big idea
  • What's the difference? - specific, concrete examples of what needs to change

Anderson gave examples of this approach and asked us to work through a passage using an integrative approach.

Session Two: Choosing to Preach

In this session, Anderson is introducing his book Choosing to Preach. There are so many books on preaching. Do we need another one?

When Haddon Robinson wrote Biblical Preaching in the 1980s, there was largely a consensus on the form that preaching should take. This is no longer the case with so many competing models. We can learn from and integrate many of the approaches.

We need to answer some questions:

Are you going to preach? No one will ever force you to preach, although they may try to silence you. To stay silent is safer. But if we believe that God is speaking through his Word, we may feel called to help people hear what he is saying. (I define preaching broadly: it's anytime someone helps another to hear God's voice through the Word of God.)

Are you going to preach the Bible? This is an arbitrary question, but we can't assume it. Some see the Bible as too difficult and offensive for listeners steeped in secular cultures. But if we understand that our task is to help people hear from God, we must preach the Bible because that is where the power is. I don't trust myself enough not to.

How are you going to discern your message from the Bible? We can preach deductively, beginning with the Bible because God is sovereign and we have to submit to what he has to say. Or we can preach inductively, beginning with the listener and believing that God speaks to the issues and needs of people today.

How are you going to communicate the message you have discerned? Cognitively, focusing on the ideas of Scripture, offering a logical and rational appeal to the listener of the sermon? Or affectively, focusing on the images of the sermon, aiming for a more emotive, affective impact so as to motivate listeners to obedience to God?


David Kolb's model of learning styles: cognitive vs. affective, deductive vs. inductive. This leads to four types (structures) for preaching:

  1. Declarative (cognitive and deductive) - example: John MacArthur, Jr. This is like the lawyer presenting a case. This is head-first preaching. Once people's thinking is correct, everything else will follow. MacArthur doesn't have patience for stories. This is a good approach, but it is not the only way.
  2. Pragmatic (cognitive and inductive) - example: Rick Warren. This is like the detective who solves a mystery. The listener is emphasized in this approach. It is still a very cognitive approach: seven ways to do this, how-to approaches, etc. The difference between MacArthur and Warren is not in cognition, it is where they start (Bible vs. audience, deductive vs. inductive).
  3. Narrative (affective and inductive) - example: Eugene Lowry. This is like a novelist who tells a story. Instead of outlines, it uses plots. It works really well with a narrative text. Lowry uses this approach for any genre: there is a story even in a text like Romans.
  4. Visionary (affective and deductive) - example: Rob Bell. This is like the artist who paints a picture. When you view art, you see the finished product. The product confronts you at an affective level and you have to respond. Preaching (and Scripture) can call for a response at the affective level.

Should we match genre with structures? Preach declarative sermons from epistles, narrative sermons from narratives, visionary sermons from poetry? That would be progress, but there's more. We'll come back and look at an integrative approach.

Session One: Why I Preach

I'm at Tyndale listening to Kenton C. Anderson, author of Choosing to Preach. I'll be posting summaries of each of the sessions.

Why preach? We can't take the answer for granted. The time in which preaching is respected is largely over. One definition of preaching: to give religious or moral instruction, especially in a tedious manner. If we asked the average person to use the word preaching

From a note to Christians:

To preach at someone who does not wish to be preached at is rape. Not rape of the body, but rape of the mind and of the soul. There is no excuse for it.

Some objections to preaching:

Preaching is anachronistic - It was fine in its time but is no longer viable. It doesn't fit our cultural reality.

Preaching is arrogant - Preaching is presumed to be intolerant, impatient, and arrogant. Preachers try to push a way of life on others. It is a threat to the sovereignty of the self - who are you to tell me anything?

Preaching is absurd - It can't be done. A preacher offers something called Truth. This can't be done because no human being can claim to know Truth in its objective sense. We are trapped by language and our subjective perspectives. How can a preacher claim to present truth in an objective way? Self-expression is okay; presuming to persuade others of your view of Truth crosses the line.

This problem is not new. The account of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 points to a problem: trying to make God unnecessary. God smacks them down and does a couple of things. He scatters them, and confuses their language. Postmodern thought points to this reality: plurality of culture and language.

Yet even after Babel, preaching is God's project. It is what he does. Our authority doesn't come from our limited perspective or opinions, but from the reality that God has spoken. There is no absurdity or arrogance if it is the Creator who is speaking. The doctrine of revelation (that God has revealed himself) gives us the confidence to preach.

Some realities:

Initiation - We have been created to hear. We are hardwired to hear his voice. There is a resonance when we hear God's voice. This is corroded by sin, but it is there because we were created in his image.

Incarnation - The Word became flesh. God made himself known to us in flesh and came preaching to us. The best model for preaching is incarnational.

Inspiration - God revealed himself in print.

Illumination - The power of the Spirit is at work helping us to understand the text. God still makes himself known; we just participate in it. They are God's words; we are only the servants.

They key is to think integration. Integration is better than balance. Balance is usually a compromise in which you lose something. Integrity involves wholeness (integer), integrity. With integration we bring polarized things together while maintaining their integrity.

Some things in homiletics have been disintegrated:

  • Text and today - The idea of bridging the gap between text and today (between two worlds) is somewhat helpful, but you still have to get them back over the bridge again. When you get back to today - real life - how do you take what you learned back in the ancient world? Preaching can come off like archeology. It's interesting but in the end it just looks like broken pottery. What are you supposed to do with it? In the end, we need to remember that the text is today. I'm not as interested in what Paul said to Philippi as what God is saying to us today through what Paul wrote to the Philippians. God is still speaking.
  • Head and heart - Some streams emphasize the intellect first and then community. Celtics invited people into community and then moved to the intellect. It's like the sports car that we love instinctively and then try to sell on its data: we have fallen in love with it before we ever know the facts about it. We have separated head and heart; he need to integrate them because that is how God created us.

So why do I preach? I went through the whole postmodern struggle myself. I preach for a few reasons:

  • Because God still speaks - This gives us confidence to preach.
  • Because listeners need to be loved - The best preachers love their listeners. They don't go to war with them. You can win people by overpowering them but you really haven't won.
  • Because I can help - There are many definitions of preaching. Mine is simple: preaching is helping people hear from God.

Is September almost over?

Very little original blogging going on here, but I hope that will improve a little soon. It's been busy - a little too busy if you ask me.

Tomorrow I'm at Tyndale listening to Kent Anderson on preaching. Anderson is leading a seminar based on his book Choosing to Preach. I may have my notes online soon afterwards.

I'm also in the middle of summarizing a Tim Keller talk in which he touches on evangelicals and the emerging church. I listened to it on the way to Ithaca the other week and found it really helpful.

Meantime I leave you with some advice I need to follow more than I do:

In response to our frenetic world, in which we can speak instantly to anyone around the world but have very little to say, I would argue pastors should be inaccessible more often than not. Part of our problem is that we get agitated if the email bell doesn’t go off every 30 seconds. Over against this, the pastor needs to teach us, to embody patience, or even silence. If my pastor, for example, is always instantly emailing me back, when is she praying for me? When is she quietly sitting in God’s presence, waiting for a word for us for Sunday? When is she nourishing her own soul in a way unrelated to her service to us, but just because God is good?

Hmm, or this from Chris Erdman in his new book Countdown to Sunday, from a chapter called "Why You Must Not Work Too Hard." Erdman writes of Gregory, abbot of St. Andrew's Monastery in Rome, who in 590 CE was called to become the new pope, "the church's chief pastor and preacher." Gregory did not want the job and "undertook the burden of the dignity with a sick heart." He would have preferred a life of contemplation and prayer. The world did not need or want "more harried preachers whose words were shallow."

Gregory wrote:

Often it happens that when a man undertakes the cares of government, his heart is distracted with a diversity of things, and as his mind is divided among many interests and becomes confused, he finds he is unfitted for any of them. This is why a certain wise man gives a cautious warning, saying: "My son, meddle not with many matters." (Ecclesiasticus 11:10).

Erdman comments:

So, preacher, go ahead, "meddle not with many matters." Learn to flip the "off" switch. Take time to think, doodle, play. If you don't, your congregation will lack the kind of witness who can help free it from the gridlock of a way of life that values the excessively active, the spiritually shallow. But if you do, you'll be the kind of witness the church and this world most need, and you'll help preach us all toward the freedom we were meant to enjoy.