Make Your Sermon Sizzle!

There is one of you, and lots of them. So in your desire to be relevant to as many listeners as possible, perhaps you tend to speak in general terms. Don’t.

Remember that generalities are as gripping as generic goods in a grocery store. Specifics sizzle. When you describe a Biblical scene, or an applicational situation, or an illustration, be as specific as possible. When you are specific, then listeners will be able to see, feel and experience. Do it well and your sermon will sizzle.

Galli and Larson, in Preaching that Connects, agree, “Being specific means saying Luger, rather than weapon; ’89 Taurus, rather than vehicle; adultery rather than sin; the nails through Christ’s palms, rather than Christ’s sufferings; Bob, the 45-year-old, overweight Chicago detective with the scar on the back of his hand, rather than officer.” (Obviously, be specific in the cultural language of your listeners.)

Like generic own label products in the supermarket – generalities are easy to find, they cost us little and they do a job. But they are bland and uninspiring. If a sermon was a meal you took many hours to prepare, you would want it to sizzle. Be specific.

Peter has responded to comments on this post – see comments.

7 Comments

Filed under Delivery, Homiletics, How to . . . ?, Preaching, Stage 8 - Message Detail

7 responses to “Make Your Sermon Sizzle!

  1. This, I believe, is one of the most effective ways to reaching a congregation. It really puts flesh and bones on the Bible Story.

  2. I was with you on this right up to the overweight detective with the scar. If that scar somehow affects the telling of the story, great. But the genius of scripture is that it is lean and gives the perfect amount of detail to get the story across. Like a good story, there is just the right amount of detail to take the reader or in our case the hearer down the right road of imagination. Give too much detail and it will be less participatory. My fat detective might be a Wilford Brimley type but yours might be a John Candy type. If it doesn’t matter to the story, let the hearer supply those details. This is just one example, but I have heard many preachers get caught up in this. So strike a healthy balance by asking, is this detail needed to make the story or the point real?

  3. Kevin,

    I think yours is a needed caution, but I would guess, and I could be wrong, that more people are likely to err on the side of not making their presentations concrete than on providing too much irrelevant detail.

    But I do believe that your point is true and should be considered very seriously….

  4. I tend to agree. Most people don’t give specific, but rather generic description. Scripture is lean, but people today function in a more visual culture. It is helpful to give specifics that they can see, rather than a generic that they need to supply all the details. As you can see, I was quoting Galli and Larson at that point and I wonder if they were slightly overstating to make the point. Certainly that description would fail to communicate in this English culture. However, if that level of specificity in an image was helpful to conveying the ethos of the illustration, then so be it. Our goal is to communicate. Specific description is an important element of effective communication in our day. This is helpful discussion Kevin and Sherman, thanks for getting stuck in!

  5. huggybear555

    i think it’s a great ideal. it might make us remember his sermon. when someone ask how was church. we might say that the preacher said something about a fat detective with a scar on the back of his hand. yes i need my sermons to sizzle thank you for the wonderful insight. this is what i needed.

  6. renel

    I agree the Specifics sermons than Generic one. This will help the listener changed their lives. like this example “adultery rather than sin”, many people or beleivers don’t want to hear specifics sermon because they don’t want to change. 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
    v.16. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, v.17. that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

    God bless you all….

  7. jason jay

    ..hi there all you guys uhhmmm..i just wanna ask a favor because its my first time to deliver a sermon what are the guideline in making a sermon or is there a pattern in making it..??..I’m so nervous (^^.) ..hope you guys will be a blessing thanks and God bless you all..!

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