The Brain and Preaching

See the source imageI am just about finishing reading a book about preaching entitled Preaching the Whole Counsel of God: Design and Deliver Gospel-Centered Sermons by Julius J. Kim. As usual, my brief thoughts on the book will be featured at the end-of-the month Book Blurbs next Tuesday, June 26.

In Chapter 9 of this book – probably the most helpful chapter for myself – the author addresses how sermons are often received by the brain. The author is not a neurosurgeon, but his interest in trying to understand how the brain works and the most effective ways to preach a sermon in order to attempt to meet the thoughts of men and women was intriguing.

Below are 10 facts about how the brain works and what implications they have for preaching. I will paraphrase for the sake of time and space, but if you are interested in reading more about this, you should buy the book.

  1. Your brain’s perception of your character can enhance or diminish your preaching effectiveness (pgs. 180-182). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Be the person you are preaching or be growing in the areas in which you address in your preaching.
  2. The brain loads information, looks for similar information, and then reacts to that information (pgs. 182-183). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Make sure your main points are clear, meaningful and organized well.
  3. A brain handles information one thing at a time (pgs. 183-185). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Avoid rambling and useless information.
  4. A brain stores relevant information (pgs. 185-188). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Tell your audience why they need to listen.
  5. Not every brain is wired the same way (pgs. 188-190). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Anticipate questions and objections from your audience. Be ready to provide answers.
  6. A brain will remember strong emotions (pgs. 191-192). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Be sincere with your eye contact and emotional tones.
  7. A brain will function better with multisensory input (pgs. 192-194). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Make sure your non-verbal communication matches what you are saying and when you are saying it.
  8. Long-term memory is encouraged with repetition (pgs. 194-195). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Be patient with your audience in their own sanctification.
  9. A brain needs rest (pgs. 195-196). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Plan for opportunities for “brain breaks” in your sermon (e.g., stories, illustrations).
  10. The brain is easily distracted (pgs. 197-198). PREACHING IMPLICATION – Anticipate potential distractions (e.g., personal mannerisms, slang, noises, hunger, apathy, hostility).

Benjamin Walton, On the Use of Rhetoric in Preaching

Image result for benjamin walton old testament“I embrace the need to inspire for the same reason I embrace the need to be accurate, relevant and clear: a commitment to serve the audience. The gospel is too precious, preaching is too important, and people too valuable to give less than our best. Besides, all preaching is rhetorical – why not use rhetoric that serves others?.” (Benjamin Walton, Preaching Old Testament Narratives)

Phillips Brooks, On Sermon Preparation

Image result for phillips brooks“The preacher’s life must be a life of large accumulation. He must not be always trying to make sermons, but always seeking truth, and out of the truth which he has won the sermons will make themselves. … Here is the need of broad and generous culture. Learn to study for the sake of truth, learn to think for the profit and the joy of thinking. Then your sermons shall be like the leaping of a fountain, and not like the pumping of a pump.” (Phillips Brooks)


Book Blurb: Biblical Preaching

Image result for haddon robinson biblical preachingHaddon Robinson (1931-2017) changed his address last week from earth to heaven. Robinson is known for many things, but being a mentor for preachers is one the most notable gifts. The book on preaching that many school require their prospective preachers to purchase is his magnum opus Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages.

The book stands as a “how to” guide for expository preaching. It is inspiring, equipping, and encouraging. I have returned to this book a plethora of times for a refresher on the method of developing a sermon. In fact, I cannot think of another resource I would commend to any aspiring or current preacher than this one.

Here is a series of selected quotes from this resource:

  • On Preaching Biblical Doctrine – “There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake. Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense, but something else and someone else. … No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth. The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions who know that. Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.”
  • On the Importance of a Good Sermon Introduction – “There are three types of preachers: those to whom you cannot listen; those to whom you can listen; and those to whom you must listen. During the introduction the congregation usually decides the kind of speaker addressing them that morning.:
  • On the Definition of an Expository Sermon – “Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to the hearers.”
  • On the Importance of a Conclusion to a Sermon – “As an experienced pilot knows that landing on airplane demands special concentration, so an able preacher understands that conclusions require thoughtful preparation.”
  • On the Preacher’s Responsibility to Communicate with God – “Ultimately God is more interested in developing messengers than messages, and since the Holy Spirit confronts men primarily through the Bible, a preacher must learn to listen to God before he speaks for Him.”