Have you ever wanted to preach a dull sermon? You know, the kind that makes your people have to fight to keep their eyelids from falling down to their navels? It’s not that hard, really, but you have to know a few tricks to achieve that goal. Here are some pointers on reaching success in this noble enterprise.
Use very big and technical words and don’t ever explain them.
Most of us have a good feel for the intellectual capacities of our people. We know if we’re dealing with white collar, educated people, or blue collar folks who only went through high school. Know your audience and make sure that the words you use are over their heads. The more they understand, the more they’ll pay attention, so if you want to put them to sleep, use highly technical phrases and be sure not to tell them what they mean. If you can throw in some Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, or quote from people they’ve never heard of, that will help.
Stand still while you preach and adopt a detached, professorial manner.
People will be interested if you use appropriate body language, vary your tone, speak to their level. You don’t want to be engaging. You want to be sure that they walk away thinking your monotone oratory is one of the best sleep aids they’ve encountered.
Deal with concepts and not application.
As you prepare, look for areas where scholars debate the meaning of a passage. Share them all with your audience, no matter now obscure. The more time you spend sharing these seeming insignificant results of your study, the more boring you’ll be. If you try to relate the passage to the needs of people, you’re going to awaken interest, so be careful not to go in that direction. That’ll kill a boring sermon.
Make sure that what you could say in 30 minutes takes you 60.
The longer you preach, the more information you’re able to give. Don’t try to be succinct and don’t wrestle with what to include or leave out. Just dump the results of your study on your people no matter how tangential it might be. There are some fine preachers who can speak for an hour and maintain the interest of their people. You want to avoid doing that at all costs. You’re aiming for dull and irrelevant.
Use illustrations that people can’t relate to.
You have to be careful when you use illustrations to begin with, because any illustration has the potential to interest your audience. So be sure that you choose illustrations that are remote. A quote from a French philosopher, a story from a war that few people have heard of, an example using technical language with which people are not going to be familiar – these are the handmaidens of dull sermons. Use them to your advantage.
Obviously I am writing tongue in cheek, or lingua in maxillam (Latin). But you get my point. None of us wants to preach dull sermons, and while these are not the only contributors to verbal anesthesia, they are serious contributors. Checking our sermons to make sure that we are not doing any of the above will help us move toward being engaging preachers.
Every once-in-awhile (like weekly) it’s good to do a self-check!
Have a great week as you plan to preach or teach this Sunday.