Three chief faults of conference sermons.

I recently sat through a barrage of pulpit fireworks at an evangelistic meeting. Each of the oratories had been honed to excellence the previous 100 times the sermon had been delivered:

Some were cute,

Some were cozy;

Some seemed brusque

And awf’ly nosy.

But in keeping with the tripartite speeches I heard that day, let me proceed to describe the chief faults of conference sermons.

I want to declare at the outset that not every sermon must, like Gaul, be divided into three parts—two less may be preferable. I have always agreed with the wag who, when asked how many points a sermon should have, promptly replied, “At least one.”

If “triptyching” the sermon makes clear the single point to which the sermon aspires, then three divisons are fine as long as the three are one. But more complex outlining may degenerate into a polypointalism where unity is disjointed by one thunderous imperative after another. In the interest of better conference preaching, I offer you, of course, three points—and a poem.

First of all, let us consider the cute sermon. Like a Mercedes, it is all grill, chrome spokes, and hubcaps. It isn’t designed to go anywhere or carry any loads—it is a conversation piece. It may have a poetic outline, such as God’s love:

A love with flaws,

A love without pause,

And a love without cause.

Or it may have a flashy title such as “The Penitent Prodigal Pining in a Pig Pen.” It may abound in cleverisms that fascinate without contribution. Such sermons are ever popular at conferences since they tend to summon reluctant delegates from the bookstores and corridors that surround the main arena.

The second kind of conference sermon is more cozy. It is a snuggling session in which identity is the issue. ...

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