Shaping the Sermon: Meaning, Engagement and Delight

Adrian Lane

Abstract: Preachers often struggle with their sermon’s shape. Moreover, lack of careful consideration of shape may mean exposition is not as faithful to the biblical text as one would hope. This introductory article is designed to help preachers in this process by considering the dynamic creative spiritual work of moving from text to shape, and by examining a range of shapes so that the shape of the sermon is not only faithful to the text, but also facilitates the communication of meaning, engagement and delight.

This article was first published in Churchman, Volume 132 No. 3 (Autumn 2018), 237-252.

Read the PDF here.


The God who illustrates

The God who illustrates: using illustration in preaching

Adrian Lane

Abstract: God communicates through illustration, and this paper explores the implications for preaching. It argues that illustration is not just a means of supporting argument or concept, but also inherently communicates truth. Good illustrations amplify meaning through multivalence, as in typology. Principles and tools for developing illustrations in homiletical practice, consonant with the Scriptures, are then discussed, including the use of reversal and escalation.

This article was first published in Churchman, Vol. 128, No. 4 (Winter 2014), pp. 329-344.

Read the PDF here.

Learning from the legacy of John Charles Chapman

Learning from the Legacy of John Charles Chapman: Australian Evangelist, Preacher, Teacher and Writer.

Adrian Lane

Abstract: John Charles Chapman exercised a lengthy, extensive and influential ministry, as an evangelist, preacher, mentor, trainer, lecturer, writer and church leader. Following his death in 2012, this paper surveys his ministry and calls for further study and assessment of Chapman’s legacy. The paper identifies sources, bibliographic material and areas worthy of research. It highlights Chapman’s commitment to public evangelistic proclamation through the use of expository preaching within a strong framework of Biblical Theology. In modelling and training others in this approach, both in Australia and overseas, it is argued that Chapman pioneered and exercised considerable influence on the development and character of a significant strain in Australian preaching, especially evangelistic preaching, and in doing so offers a distinctively Australian contribution to homiletics more generally.

An earlier version of this paper was originally presented at Preaching Australia: Religion, Public Conversation and the Sermon, St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Canberra, 19 September 2013 and subsequently published in St Mark’s Review, No. 230, December 2014 (4).

Read the PDF here.

Application and Persuasion: Bringing all of God’s Word to all in His World

Adrian Lane, Senior Lecturer in Ministry Skills and Church History, Ridley College.

This article was first published in Churchman Spring 2013, Vol. 127 No. 1, 55-70.

Click here to read PDF.

Application and Persuasion: The Complaint and Challenge[1]

A common complaint from those who listen to sermons is that the preacher ‘only told us what we already knew. We were no better off after the sermon than before. We could have got that by staying home and reading the text ourselves.’ In other words, all the preacher has done is rehearse the text. Even when the preacher has expounded the text in the light of the rest of the Bible, bringing new insights or deepening truths already believed, the congregation hasn’t felt fed, hasn’t had its ‘itches’ scratched.[2] The preacher hasn’t integrated the text with the issues faced daily by the listeners. Or, to put it in Barth’s terms, there’s been no connection between ‘the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other’.[3] Even when the preacher has made some attempt to apply the text, often that application is superficial, hackneyed, limited to private spirituality, or more suited to another text. Unfortunately, the preacher hasn’t wrestled robustly with the contemporary implications and imperatives arising from this particular text.

Continue reading

“It better be a good sermon”: Preaching on special occasions

Adrian Lane, Lecturer in Ministry Skills and Church History, Ridley College.

In any sermon, preachers are under pressure: pressure from their own expectations of competence and fruitfulness; pressure from the congregation to say something worthwhile, worthy of their stipend; pressure from their family, lest they cause embarrassment; pressure from colleagues, mentors and bishops: to be faithful to their calling and training; and pressure from God: knowing the gravity of their ministry, that teachers “will be judged more strictly” (Jas 3:1).

See the full article (PDF): Preaching on special occasions

The article was recently published in the book Better Be A Good Sermon: Preaching for Special Occasions and Contexts (Acorn 2011). This collection of articles and related sermons is available from the publisher, Acorn Press, and the Simeon Association, Brisbane for $29.99.

Training the trainers of tomorrow’s preachers

Adrian Lane, Lecturer in Ministry Skills and Church History, Ridley College.

This paper urges preachers to train others, multiplicatively. A training frameworkbased on the homiletical quadrilateral of Word, preacher, sermon and congregation isprovided. Requisite competencies are then identified for trainers, whether serving inseminary, jurisdictional, congregational or parachurch contexts. These competenciesinclude skills in self-understanding, gift recognition, character formation, theologicalreflection and the development of creativity, as well as technical skills for theproduction of the sermon. The paper argues for named intentionality in the trainingprocess so that students are likewise equipped to train others.

See the full article (PDF): Training the trainers of tomorrow’s preachers

Training for the sound of the sermon

Adrian Lane, Lecturer in Ministry Skills and Church History, Ridley College.

Much good attention has been given of late to the sermon’s content, with thecommitment to faithful exegesis of the text, to understanding the text in its Biblicalcontext, and to thinking through the ramifications of the text for the preacher and thesermon’s audience. Much good attention has also been given to the form or shape ofthe sermon, with the recognition that different Biblical genres call for a variety ofshapes, as do different audiences, places and purposes. In the Spirit’s power,preachers will also be gifted differently and will each bring a unique creativity to theirsermons. The integration of insights from the study of narrative and narrative formhas also complimented the classical commitment to propositional forms. However,not much attention has been given to the sound of the sermon. On reflection, this isstrange, given that sermons are primarily an oral medium, for the ear. Moreover,despite the plethora of preaching texts, there are few resources to train students forthis aspect of homiletical practice, which encompasses far more than “delivery” or“the use of the voice”.

See the full article (PDF): Training for the sound of the sermon: orality and the use of an oral text in oral format

Towards a pedagogy of training ministers

Adrian Lane, Lecturer in Ministry Skills and Church History, Ridley College.

Ridley Melbourne celebrates a centenary of training for ministry in 2010. It istherefore timely and apposite to name and examine some of the core pedagogicalprinciples undergirding the current program at the College, with particular focus onthe Department of Ministry and Practice. These principles are examined with a viewto facilitating further discussion on the pedagogy of ministry training more generally,both in Anglican and other contexts, as theological education enters an exciting andstrategic new phase in a multicultural and pluralistic world.

See the full article (PDF): Towards a Pedagogy of Training Ministers

Please! No more boring sermons!

Adrian Lane, Lecturer in Ministry Skills & Church History, Ridley College

Evangelicals have a strong commitment to the Bible. They believe it to be God’s word: authoritative, powerful, life-bringing, life-sustaining, and life-determining. They are keen to study it; to work hard at determining its meaning. They seek to submit to it, claiming that by doing so they find peace, joy, and favour in God’s sight. And they work hard at bringing the Bible’s message to others, claiming that only by submitting to the Bible will the world find life, both in this world and the next. Why then are so many sermons so boring? Why do so many sermons fail to engage their audience? Why do congregations go home with a ‘ho-hum’ response, rather than experiencing and being transformed by the Bible’s re-creative and life-giving power? After all, it does claim to be ‘living and active!’ (Heb 4:12). And why do so many preachers lack a confidence in their preaching, turning instead to liturgical practice or counselling, for instance, to find the heart of their ministry?

Read the full article (PDF): Please! No More Boring Sermons!