Trends in sermons are changing fast. The traditional approach of preaching on a biblical text in a lecture format through deductive reasoning is being replaced more and more by what is being called in seminary circles as “the new homiletics.”
New homiletics, broadly speaking, looks at the preaching of a sermon more as an event or an experience. Those in the pews often become part of the conversation through question-and-answer formats or personal stories that are shared.
Much of what is behind this shift in homiletics has to do with the rise of social media and our increased comfort level as a society in engaging in a dialog about any number of topics.
The challenge for pastors and other church workers is how to direct and control that conversation within the context of a sermon in order to achieve the spiritual goals they have in mind for their message and for their audience.
One way is to be very specific with your questions to parishioners.
A second way is to provide fill-in-the-blanks and encourage parishioners to say aloud their answers for the blanks.
Another is to always bring the conversation back to Scripture.
This particular trend in homiletics has become known as dialogical preaching.
This is not your grandma’s sermon, but it can be very effective at bringing the message of the Gospel home to people perhaps in a more personal way.
For me, engaging in a dialog with my pastor from the pew can be daunting at first, but when I think about it more and experience it more, it can reinforce in me that I am not only a hearer of the word, but that I too am a doer of the word (James 1:22). Doing the speaking in some of the sermon is also a way of reminding me that I should always be in dialog with God, responding to him with my own voice, not just taking in his words and walking away.
This approach may also help us to dialog more with one another in the pew during the sermon in constructive and meaningful ways that may not happen otherwise.
Be on the lookout for dialogical preaching practices in your own parish and when they happen, be ready to engage.