Sermon Juice

By: James Flynn
Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

By looking at my bio picture, you can tell right away that the bicep to the left doesn’t belong to me!  It probably belongs to one of the muscle heads I see at the gym each week.  I seem to work out just as hard as them, but don’t get the results they get.  Why?  Half of them are “juiced.”  They are a part of the crowd who are sacrificing their body on the altar of vanity by getting some help from anabolic steroids, known to cause havoc with otherwise healthy bodies.  I’ll take the smaller biceps, thank you.

What about sermons?  My passion is practical theology – the application of sound theology to everyday life and ministry to produce effective ministry with a solid foundation.  Our theology determines not only what is in our sermons, but how our sermons are presented.  Sometimes the presentation has a lot more to do with how the sermon is received than the actual content itself.  That statement may violate a few sacred cows among Renewal folks (those with a Charismatic, Pentecostal, Third Wave, or Holiness background), but I am fine with that.  I’ve been doing this for thirty years and have seen what works and what doesn’t.  We have been taught that “the anointing” is what matters – is the Holy Spirit blessing our sermon or not?  We have also been taught that the Word of God alone will make the difference.  That theology sounds great, but what about the people in the pews who are falling asleep and looking at their watches with their minds on March Madness?  Could there be something more to this thing we call preaching, that goes beyond the anointing and the power inherent in God’s Word itself?  I think so.  What might that be – what can I couple with an anointed message and the power of God’s word to capture the minds that wonder to wake the sleeping giant in my pews?  The answer – sermon juice!

Creativity and imagination are sermon juice.  When coupled with God’s anointing and the power of the Word of God, creativity and imagination capture and maintain attention while stirring the heart of our listeners.  Jesus was famous for drawing large crowds with His sermons.  He was anointed.  He used God’s Word.  The difference between Him and many preachers today is that He also was tremendously creative.  He was constantly using nature and His surroundings – “God’s Theater” as John Calvin called it, to paint living pictures with His words.  He captured life and its daily experiences to drive home deeply theological points in a simple way that even children could understand.  As John Maxwell says, He kept the “cookie jar on the lower shelf” so everyone could reach them and understand how what He was saying directly applied to their lives at that moment in time.  As Mark Batterson says, “irrelevance is irreverence.”  If they can’t understand it, they can’t apply it.  If they can’t relate to it, they can’t internalize it.  The preacher’s job is to use creativity to cloth his or her words with “flesh,” partnering with God to preach a sermon.  We are often uncomfortable with that – many pray at the beginning of their message, “Lord, let this be all of you and none of me.”  Sorry, God won’t answer that one.  His part is the anointing and the power of the Word.  Our part is to add flesh to the words we preach with fresh creativity and imagination – often the difference between success and failure.  Pray for His blessing and anointing.  Trust in the power of His authoritative word.  But preacher, for greater effectiveness in preaching, tap into your God-given creativity and imagination – get juiced!

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James Flynn
This entry was posted by on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Biblical Studies, Faith & Culture, Renewal Studies, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Sermon Juice”

  1. Jason Wermuth says:

    Great post Dr. Flynn. I am ready to go to the gym and get juiced now! Wait I mean, get in the pulpit and …

  2. Michelle Vondey says:

    Jim, I appreciate you pointing out the need for and the use of creativity and imagination in, of all things, preaching. Creativity and imagination have an aesthetic quality to them that applies to a number of leadership positions, including preaching and teaching theology. In fact, I would suggest that creativity and imagination are requirements for studying theology (and anything else not usually associated with aesthetics). How can we come to know God and understand his Word if we don’t use our imaginations? What realms of possibility would open up to us and others in understanding the Bible’s relevance not only for our lives but also for our audience, whoever they may be (e.g., students, parishioners), if we would imagine what God could be really saying (not what we’ve been told he says). By the way, a colleague of yours wrote an excellent book on the use of the imagination in thinking about and “doing” theology.

    • James Flynn James Flynn says:

      Thanks for the comment, Michelle. My colleague, your very own husband Wolfgang Vondey, wrote a wonderfully creative book on Communion by imaging us as “People of Bread.” This exemplifies what a scholar-artist can do if he or she wants to communicate with richness and paint word pictures rather than simply speaking words. God help us to more like Him in the area of creativity and imagination!

  3. TAD says:

    Dr. Flynn,

    Thank you for co-signing on the idea of creativity and imagination for preaching purposes. I see this as a way to reach even the unreachable at times such as youth and young adult. If you bring them in, they will get something out of it. I have found this to be effective for me. It was like a divinely sent answer for me. When you walk away I want you to have something you can feast on all the week and let it begin a process in your heart and mind to make a difference in you one day.