In every way preach Christ. That is my goal and my honor. I consider it a sacred trust, a burden, a responsibility, as well as a blessing to stand before people with the Word of Life. I never take the task lightly and I rarely step aside from the pulpit completely satisfied.
I want to toss something that has been on my mind for sometime that is a little frustrating...but perhaps writing about it and hearing your responses will help me sort it out some.
It's probably been 20 years ago that I first heard the quote attributed to Fred Craddock: "The worst kind of preaching is, the same."
I have made it my life to study preaching. To study the Word to be prepared, but more, to study the art of preaching. Not that it shows too often, but I have learned much from many. And I'm not through learning.
In 1987 I started using "fill in the blank" outlines. I suppose some might say it is a gimmick, but honestly, I've never felt like I had the ability to communicate in a way that kept folks attention but people have always commended and seemed to apprecaite the outlines. So I started using them. About the same time and for much the same reason I started most always having at least 5 points in sermons. On the outlines I use them almost every time I preach. It is VERY rare that I do not use them. It provides ability for the listener to follow the flow of the sermon and since I use complete sentence outlines a reference if they share the sermon with another or go back to review them later. The fill in the blank prompts the listener but doesn't tell them too much. My friend James uses to fill in the blanks before the sermon and his answers were always very entertaining :). Doing the outlines adds at least two or three hours to my prep time most weeks. Unless I'm using a Rick Warren sermon (yes, I'm being honest, he outlines just like me - or vice-versa). I like to put an action word in every point and a personal pronoun.
I added "Kid Words" about 10 years ago. I remember when I was probably 5 or 6 a preacher saying that as a child if you have a hard time listening write down two words - i.e. God, Christ, Bible, Heaven, etc. And count which the preacher said most often. It helped me and I figure there are other little ones listening, so I added that to the outlines.
Outlines: I think they help and if they help some to "stay with the sermon" then it is worth it. But I am in a routine. I think they are one of the things that helps people listen to me and so I use them and I use them all the time, cause what if the one time I didn't someone showed up who this was what drew them to listen and their life was changed? But I know some people and some sermons don't lend themselves to this. So I think sometimes I shouldn't but I keep on 'cause again, what if that one time? Not everyone appreciates them and some plain don't like them. And I'd like to give them a break sometime. But what if the Sunday I didn't use one a non-Christian was in the audience for the first time and they couldn't follow - see.
About five years ago I started using PowerPoint. One of the most helpful things happened when a fellow "whipped me with a wet noodle" about how preachers use PowerPoint incorrectly. We make it about words and it is about pictures. Man, he changed and greatly improved what I do. Yes, I know it's a new technology, but the most effective of preachers have always used both what is happening in culture as well as aids that come along to improve their impact. BUT it also adds at least 2 hours of prep time to every sermon to do it right. And then some people just don't like PowerPoint and I can appreciate that. But more people in our culture are visual learners. I think, at least once every week - I won't do PowerPoint this week and then I start thinking - what if a person shows up who has a hard time listening to preaching but the visual aspect that PowerPoint allow brings there attention to the spoken Word? Same thing. I don't want to be in a rut...but what if that was the Sunday?
Man, do I over think this stuff or what? I do take it seriously. I'd be interested in hearing/seeing your thoughts on this. Preachers and non-preachers alike. Mostly listeners.