Preaching with Clarity

There seems to me to be a backlash in the world of preaching.  A rebellion against those sermons which had three points all beginning with P.  I don't know really if there was a time when there was lots of preaching like that - I don't remember it if there was.  Similarly there are those who don't like points at all, or outlines, or use of powerpoint and so on.  There are also those who want us to preach narratively and so on.

I wonder if it's just me, but increasingly I listen to preachers and I can't make head-nor-tail of what the point is.  It's not that there's not good stuff in the talks - there is.  It's not that they haven't thought about the Bible passage or that they haven't thought about how to communicate.  It's not even that they haven't thought about the application.  It's that I can't, ultimately, make out what they're trying to say.  I can't follow the train of thought.  It becomes words, words, words.

At times I wonder if it's a postmodern thing.  In the Saturday Telegraph this week Damian Thompson pokes fun at the Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nicholls for using meaningless, benign phrases.  I was on a 'retreat' recently, which was very similar.  Lots of words, no real clarity and one suspected not much actual content behind the words.  It's tempting isn't, to say nice platitudes, benign phrases, which keep everyone happy but don't really say anything.  That way no-one gets upset.  Equally no-one is taught!

I take it that when Paul requires elders to be "able to teach" (1 Tim 3:2 ESV) it means that people listening should be learning.  If I can't follow the preacher, then  it is difficult to learn.  So, I was encouraged to read an article in the Briefing this week taken from a new book called Saving Eutychus by P. Cambell and G. Millar that said "Clarity is 'the new black'" and quotes Colossians 4:3-4, where Paul asks for prayer for clarity in his speaking.

It seems to me that clarity is critical.  It doesn't need three points beginning with P!  But if we lose clarity by rebelling against particular sermon forms, then I for one would rather go back to the discipline of having a clearly defined and clearly communicated structure I think.

Either way, as preachers, let's try to be crystal clear.


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