Words and moods can either make toes tap or set teeth on edge.

Everyone knows a sermon has points, but not everyone knows a sermon also has a tune.

I applied the word tune to preaching a few years ago when I began to wonder, Why do I especially like certain sermons? What makes certain ones really work? There was some important ingredient in effective sermons that went beyond the normal considerations of content. That ingredient, I realized, was the tune.

A sermon's tune-its mood or spirit-is not easy to define precisely, but it's unmistakable. Hearing some sermons, I think of seventy-six trombones coming down Main Street. Other messages make me picture a violin and a crust of bread.

We don't often think of the tune we'll play when we're preparing a sermon, because our preparation tends to focus on the content. But afterward, when we evaluate how we spoke it and how people responded to it, then we recall the tune: the subtle atmosphere that was projected, the mood that filled the sanctuary as the sermon was preached.

Complicating matters is that not just ...

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