Super Bowl Hand Signals and Predictable Preaching

The mystery of the Broncos' Super Bowl trouncing was solved when Richard Sherman revealed how the Seahawks cracked Peyton Manning's hand signals.  Manning showed Seattle's defense exactly what was coming before the ball was snapped.

What a relief.  For a while, I feared aliens from outer space had kidnapped the Broncos and replaced them with Detoit Lions.

Reflecting on the debacle, I realized I've experienced something like that myself -- while preaching.  Without  prayerful reflection and careful consideration in the study, sermons easily become predictable.

Most preachers have favorite themes, phrases and delivery styles, which are unique strengths, but when overused, are overfamiliar.  Overfamiliarity in preaching = boring.

This is especially true of "fill in the blank" sermons - -the ones accompanied by notetaking guides. A few preachers do this masterfully.  Most don't.  Far too often, a note taking guide just gives away your hand signals ahead of time.  More often than not, when I've been given one of those little sheets, I've filled out at least 80% of the blanks while the preacher was making the first point.

If you are a fill in the blank preacher, please keep me on my toes by selecting words that aren't so obvious.

Every preacher should change it up.  If you normally preach three points and a poem, do a narrative sermon instead.  If your sermons are normally topical, try expository.   If you are a manuscript preacher, go without notes.  That will keep both you and your congregation on your toes.

Of course we need to be ourselves.  Preaching is, after all, divine truth combined with human personality. But, that doesn't mean we should stay in our comfortable routine.  If we're dishing up the same hash every Sunday, we come off like Charlie Brown's teacher, "Wah. . . waah. . . waah. . . wah. . . wah."

One of the best things our church did to keep things fresh was a move to team preaching.  A variety of voices from the pulpit has a far wider and deeper impact than one preacher can  make alone.  Being willing to share the preaching load was not easy for me at first.  I love to preach, and had been delivering 90% of the sermons at my church for over 20 years.

However, after a year of experiencing the new team approach, I wouldn't want it any other way.  I get to hear great messages from others.  I have more energy when I preach, and more time to prayerfully develop non-predictable sermons.


David Drury said…
What a great illustration of how this works.

It's helpful for the "Peyton Manning level preachers" among us who should not get comfortable, because even Manning can get taken down with predictability.

It's also key for emerging young preachers like me... because all of us can get in a rut pretty quick

thanks for this, Pastor Mark!
Tom Holloway said…
Ouch, quit stepping on my toes!!
Lenny Luchetti said…
Thanks for this thoughtful analogy Mark. There are so many ways to structure a sermon. Too often we preachers give too much reverance to our stylistic preferences and not enough attention to the genre of the biblical text we are preaching or to the diverse needs of the people to whom we preach. I agree too that "showing our cards" to soon in the sermon usually grounds the sermon as soon as it takes flight. The best sermons, in my opinion, build tension and moves toward resolution.
kerry kind said…
One of my favorite principles, learned from Ellsworth Kalas:
The listener suddenly realizes at the halfway point, or later, that they are the "star" of the sermon.

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