Today we look at the seventh chapter — ‘Making Dry Bones Live’.
We have a point, it is relevant to our audience and the outline makes sense. Now what? It is time to make dry bones live! A skeleton is necessary for life, but it is inadequate on its own. Below I give you the outline of the chapter in Haddon Robinson’s book. I won’t repeat what he says for more eloquently and powerfully than myself. What I will do is add some observations on the topic from my own experience.
Check your facts
I will never forget the day my friend David came up to me after a sermon. I had quoted some particularly impressive statistics. They were wrong. Statistics and numbers are not my strong point. He studied mathematics at Cambridge University. I needed his input. I also needed to learn how to interpret numbers and use them well. These days whenever I see interesting statistics about the Bible or some aspect of human existence I double and triple check them before sharing. Not only that they are accurate, but that I have interpreted them accurately. Ever since my conversation with David I have made in my habit to listen to a BBC podcast called “More or Less” about how to interpret numbers and statistics.
Vary your illustrations
Back in the 90s there was a fad for using stories from the “chicken soup for the soul” books. Additionally I found some bible illustrations software which used quotes from books and famous people. My sermons for the next 12 months were littered with quotes from these books and from the software. And I mean littered. I had a quote for every point and sub-point. Guess what? They lost their power. I became predictable. In fact, I ended up subconsciously making points fit my quotes and stories. Variety is the spice of life. Well, the spice of sermons. Use stories, quotes, personal sharing, facts, visuals and as many different ways to illustrate the truth of your lesson as you can. Don’t use all of them in one sermon.
Make stories real
Stories need enough detail and emotion to connect with our audience. Not too much, or it becomes about the details rather than the point, but enough so that they can experientially enter the situation. For example, let’s say you’re making a point about being caught out in a lie. You could tell a story about being in just such a situation at work. Something like, “I was in a meeting and my boss asked me whether I had completed the project. I said “yes”. Then my coworker said “No you haven’t. I was talking to Bob who said it still needs finishing”. I was caught in a lie. I was embarrassed.” Decent, but no power.
Or, it could be more like, “My boss asked me to complete a piece of work that I found very difficult. I was stressed out, anxious and feeling inadequate because I knew it was beyond my normal capacity. I didn’t sleep the night before the day of the meeting to discuss progress. I came into the meeting frazzled, knowing that I hadn’t finished the work, and afraid that I would be held to account. The boss asked me if I had finished it, and I said “yes”. I instantly felt relieved because I thought I’d got him off my back, but I also felt guilty. My mouth was dry, my hands were clammy and I knew I had sinned. How could I lie? What kind of Christian am I? Then my coworker, Jim, piped up and challenged me. He stated the truth which was that the project was not finished. The boss just looked at me. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I felt my face go red, I looked at the ground, and I didn’t know what to say.” That store is not perfect either, but it at least has more power than the earlier drier version.
What kind of illustrations do you use to bring home your points? How do you help the truth of the Bible have its impact on the hearts of those listening to you?
- Fill in the outline with supporting materials that explain, proof, apply, or amplify the points
- Definition and exclamation
- Factual information
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Remember to keep calm, and carry on teaching.
God bless, Malcolm