Incoherent Preaching

Very few preachers are incoherent.  Yet many preachers are incoherent.  Before you accuse me of being incoherent, let me explain.  The other day I sat through a sermon from a visiting speaker.  I may be my own worst critic, but I try to be gracious to others.  Sorry.  On this occasion I failed.  Why did I have such a hard time with the message?  Because it did not cohere.

The man was coherent.  No reason to believe otherwise.  Every sentence made sense.  Every word fit in its context.  Yet at a higher level the message was incoherent.  It didn’t stick together.  The pieces may have made sense as distinct units.  But the reason for joining them together was unclear.  At a level higher than words or sentences, the message lacked unity.  All the parts of a message must be coordinated to form a single, unified whole.  Without this careful and deliberate cohesion, at a macro level the message is incoherent. 

The need for unity in a message is not a new idea.  It’s been a big idea since long before big idea preaching was defined.  But just because unity, or coherence, is a long established need in speech formulation, this doesn’t mean that we automatically achieve it.  It takes work to make a message cohere.  It takes hard work to avoid being incoherent!

5 thoughts on “Incoherent Preaching

  1. I agree brother. I looked at my past sermons from years ago and found most to be what you call “incoherent.” I was more concerned with filling a three point outline than I was with ensuring it all fit coherently. Your post reminded me of Haddon’s saying, “It’s not that we too many ideas. We have too many unrelated ideas.”

  2. The word for me is “integrity.” Incoherence lacks integrity. A while back, there was a space shuttle that couldn’t safely re-enter the earth’s atmosphere because its thermal tiles lacked intergrity. If it did try to land as-is, it would dis”intergrate.” My sermons disintergrate on entry when they lack integrity.

  3. The issue of coherence is very key. I agree totally that sermons need unity. What I found helpful is what one writer refers to as the interrogative question. I find that whenever I settle on a sermon idea from the text then I ask the important question that I want the sermon to answer. Each point that I raise in the sermon must give progression in answering this question.

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