Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eclov: Inspiration Points

image I am still being blessed by the writings of Lee Eclov.  In an article entitled "Inspiration Points" he compares preaching to driving along a mountain road.  Periodically you come upon "Scenic Overlooks" or "Inspirational Points".  It is good if you pause for a brief minute and take an appreciative look at the view. 

Hear what he says:

I have occasion to listen to dozens of sermon tapes by as many different preachers each year, and I have been struck by how seldom preachers invest in the hard work of developing inspiration points in their sermons. There is much explanation, some illustration, occasional passion; but there is little beauty, few breath-catching moments, seldom need for a moment of silence to take it all in.The main reason our sermons lack inspiration points, though, is developing them is such hard work. We are taught to exegete and research, to marshal thoughts into an outline, but professors never upped our grade in seminary for writing something beautiful, for painting a word masterpiece, for setting a text a-singing. As we guide our listeners up the mountains of Scripture, however, we misguide them if we do not stop at some inspiration points.

After we have done our study to rightly understand a text, we must pause to think about what is before us. Where is the beauty, the poetry, the wonder in this text? If I do not see it, I haven't stopped long enough to look at the view, for no passage of Scripture is a mere parking lot. All Scripture is inspired by the same God who tosses off sunsets every night. Even genealogies have inspiration points!

Look for a truth that has become too familiar. Look for a phrase everyone takes for granted. Look for a metaphor that puts a paintbrush into your hand and a canvas before your people. Look for a moving photo where you can point out what people might have missed in the black-and-white of print. What is the melody of this passage? What would a poet see? Ask God to heal your blindness and release your tongue!

Scenic overlooks don't just happen to be along the highway. Someone saw the possibilities and engineered a wide spot in the road, cut away the brush that hindered sight, and put out signs telling us what is coming. Preaching an inspiration point takes some rhetorical engineering also. Several different tools are at our disposal:

Eclov gives several examples of ways to do that.  So that I don't just reproduce his article here, let me summarize his list:

  • Story.
  • Quotation.
  • Stacking.
  • Extrapolation.
  • Expanding a biblical metaphor.

This is not the first time I have addressed the need for me and other to be inspirational in our preaching.  It is a constant struggle for me.  Maybe this article rang a bell with me because it is something to which I have been sensitized.  But I think Eclov is right...there is the need for this in the work of most preachers. 

You should be able to find the article here.

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