ETC: Expository Preaching by Haddon W. Robinson – Chapters 4-6
This is part two of my Every Third Chapter treatment of Haddon W. Robinson’s “Expository Preaching”, or “Biblical Preaching” as it’s called in the USA (you’ll find more stuff at that second link, including the ability to search the book). Part one is here. Chapters 4 to 6 begin the “Road from Text to Sermon” and take us from stages 4 to 8 in Robinson’s stages of sermon development. The Exegetical Idea (the “Big Idea” we’ve taken from a study of the selected Scripture) is subjected to three questions which help determine what it is that needs to be said about this text in a sermon:
- What does this mean?
- Is it true?
- What difference does it make?
Important questions. If we can’t explain our big idea, we shouldn’t preach it. If it’s not true, of course we shouldn’t preach it and we’ve misunderstood the text. If it makes no difference to the lives of people then our big idea is not worth preaching. Depending on the text one of these questions will be bigger than the others and will determine the form of the sermon we need to preach. One might spend more time explaining one text and more time proving the truth of another, while another may be plainly true but the modern application in the daily lives of Christians will take up most of the sermon. The next chapter is called “The Arrow and the Target” and it’s a great title — a brilliant analogy for the Homiletical Idea and the purpose of the sermon, which is what this chapter covers. The Homiletical Idea is related to the Exegetical Idea and is the fruit of probing that idea with the three questions of chapter 4. The Homiletical Idea states the Exegetical Idea in terms relevant, understandable and memorable to the audience in one clear sentence. In other words the Exegetical Idea is the short and preachy (in a good way) version of the big idea of the text. That’s the arrow, it’s what the preacher fires (again with the weaponry Mr. Robinson?). The purpose of the sermon is the target. What is the preacher aiming for? “Why are you preaching this?” is a great question to ask as I prepare a sermon. What exactly do I want to happen as a result of my preaching? Why am I telling them this? Chapter 6 covers the shapes of a sermon, i.e. the form it will take. Will the sermon be a deductive sermon or an inductive sermon, or something in-between? To be honest I have never really stopped to think of what shape my sermon should take before and I think this chapter could make a big difference to my preaching. Once the best sermon shape is determined, the outline can be developed. One immediate correction I will make to my sermon preparation is in my development of the outline. I use mind-mapping software called XMind to develop my sermon outlines and I’ve found it extremely helpful, but I have been using little phrases or subtitles to mark the outline of my sermon. These can be kind of vague. Robinson has reminded me that “each point of the outline represents an idea and thus should be a grammatically complete sentence”I think my sermons would benefit by me clarifying each idea more before I decide to work it into the sermon outline. By spending more time developing clearer ideas in the outline I think I’d make writing the text of the sermon much easier. So far so helpful. One thing I’ve been struck with while reading this book is how great Haddon W. Robinson is at explaining his points. I can’t even provide an example because throughout the book I notice what a good communicator the author is and I’m very grateful for his contribution to the church.