by Lim Soon Hock, Empowering Churches
I’m sure you’ve discovered for yourself that sermons come in different forms. To help you recognise the different types of sermons I’ve put together a three-dimensional sermon matrix. When you view a sermon through the matrix you will be able to determine its type.
TOPICAL, TEXTUAL OR NARRATIVE?
The first dimension looks at whether a sermon is (1) topical, (2) textual or (3) narrative. A topical sermon is centred around a subject matter such as Integrity, The End Times, or a Bible character like Abraham. The topic then determines the Bible texts to be used. They may be taken from any part of Scripture as long as they are relevant to the subject. On the other hand, a textual sermon starts with the Bible text. The text may be a verse, a passage or even a whole book, which then determines the contents of the sermon.
The narrative sermon is not so easily defined as there are varied views about what it is. One important view is that the narrative sermon is not just a sermon based on a Bible story. For that matter, it may not even have any stories in it. Rather, what the narrative sermon employs are the elements found in stories; such as tension, resolution, and plot, which shape the sermon.
You may have noticed that I’ve not included “expository” in the list. I believe all sermons should be expository. By “expository” I mean the message must be derived from and be faithful to the Bible text. In other words, a topical sermon must be no less faithful to the Bible texts that it is based on as much as a textual sermon. A topical or narrative sermon is to be just as expository as a textual sermon.
DEDUCTIVE OR INDUCTIVE?
The second dimension is about whether a sermon is (1) deductive, or (2) inductive. In plain terms, a deductive sermon begins with a thesis or a proposition. The rest of the sermon is an elaboration of the thesis or a presentation of the points that support the proposition. The inductive sermon is the exact opposite. The preacher takes the listener with him (or her) along the journey of detection until both arrive at the conclusion or message together. Simply put, the deductive sermon is declarative while the inductive sermon is discovery.
TEACHER, PREACHER, EVANGELIST OR COUNSELLOR?
The third dimension concerns how the speaker perceives his role in the pulpit. Does he see himself as a (1) teacher, (2) preacher, (3) evangelist, or (4) counsellor? A speaker can assume any one of the four role-types depending on his gifting and his philosophy of preaching, which might be modified depending on the crowd he is addressing and the purpose of the sermon.
What I’m going to say next is certainly an oversimplification, but it will give you an idea of how a speaker might present his sermon if he were inclined to be one of the above types. A teacher would spend more time explaining the Bible text so that his listeners understand the truth of the Scripture he is addressing. A preacher would be more focussed on bringing home the sermon’s message and moving the people to act on it. An evangelist’s prime objective is get the Gospel message to the unbelievers in the crowd. While a counsellor is concerned about giving good biblical and Christian counsel through his sermon to help and encourage his listeners.
viewing through the 3D sermon matrix
A sermon then, can be a combination of any of the elements from the three dimensions. Some elements come together much more naturally. For example, teachers tend to be more textual and deductive. A narrative sermon by definition would be inductive. On the other hand, a topical or evangelistic sermon may be approached deductively or inductively.
I appreciate that many sermons may not be so easily classified as one type or another. Nonetheless, analysing sermon types using this 3D sermon matrix is helpful to understand a preacher’s approach to his sermon presentation. And if you are a preacher, the matrix will help you understand your default mode of sermon presentation. Maybe, now that you’ve learnt something from the 3D sermon matrix it will help you venture to try out other types of sermon presentations.