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As a lay person, I've listened to hundreds of sermons. What has made an impact? Obviously a steady diet of consistent biblical preaching has nourished me, but perhaps you'd be interested in the sermons I've particularly savored, whose taste has lingered to this day. Here are some techniques I've seen pastors use with lasting effect in my life.
1. First-person sermons. One Sunday, my husband and I noticed the pastor wasn't on the platform as usual. When the choir finished the presermon anthem, we waited. Then, without preamble, a dark-haired, white-robed angel walked down the aisle from the back of the sanctuary. We were caught off guard by our pastor's unusual Sunday attire and by his sermon-a first-person, heavenly account of the controversial second half of 1 Peter 3. We tuned in.
Another Sunday, our pastor stepped up to the pulpit and began, "I came over the hill, leading my men, and there I saw the city ablaze!" Grief overwhelmed him as he described his family being taken captive. He had our attention, although we weren't sure what exactly he was up to. His method forced us to gather the evidence ourselves and piece together the case. He never broke character (David, as we finally figured out). All of us, children and adults, were caught by surprise, so he kept our full attention. What was the text? First Samuel 30.
2. Simple visual props. One Sunday we awaited the typical sermon introduction. Instead, we were introduced to three chairs on the stage: commitment, conflict, and compromise. Everyone tuned in as we became acquainted with each chair and were asked to make a decision: In which chair would we choose to sit?
Another time, the sermon began as usual, but the sameness ended when the preacher verbally divided up the sanctuary and congregation to represent the geography of his text. "The stage is the Mediterranean Sea. You people in the back are the Dead Sea (laughter). This left side is the Sea of Galilee, and those of you on the right are Egypt." He drew us into ...