What’s the Deal with Poorly Honed Sermons?

Have you ever listened to a sermon filled with illustrations and jokes that feel just a little – I dunno – half-baked? The metaphor doesn’t quite hit home, the joke fails to pack its full punch-potential. I’m sure you can think of examples… If not, I’ll happily send you an mp3 of one of my failures!

Rhetoric matters in communicating a message; not just in getting a laugh, but in knowing how to make an illustration memorable, making it have the desired impact and helping the listener have an experience right there in his seat/pew. I happen to think that too few sermons rise above informative ‘lectures’, in part because of the dearth of time given to crafting our language and honing our humour.
 
In this fascinating video, expert comedian Jerry Seinfeld gives a brief insight into the anatomy of his Pop Tart routine. He explains the two-year process that goes into making a joke work at every level. If you’re a preacher, I’d recommend checking it out.

I’m not (of course) suggesting that preachers are meant primarily to be performers, or that honing jokes should replace prayer and rigorous study, but I found the video provocative as I thought about the amount of time I give to the aesthetics of preaching: choosing the perfect words, crafting an engaging narrative structure, thinking about rhythm, onomatopoeia, assonance and so on. 
 
Seinfeld admits in the video,

“It’s a long time to spend on something that means absolutely nothing… But that’s what I do.”

If it’s worth two years to communicate something that means absolutely nothing, isn’t it worth a decent chunk of our time to communicate something of infinite worth?

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