Session Two: Choosing to Preach

In this session, Anderson is introducing his book Choosing to Preach. There are so many books on preaching. Do we need another one?

When Haddon Robinson wrote Biblical Preaching in the 1980s, there was largely a consensus on the form that preaching should take. This is no longer the case with so many competing models. We can learn from and integrate many of the approaches.

We need to answer some questions:

Are you going to preach? No one will ever force you to preach, although they may try to silence you. To stay silent is safer. But if we believe that God is speaking through his Word, we may feel called to help people hear what he is saying. (I define preaching broadly: it’s anytime someone helps another to hear God’s voice through the Word of God.)

Are you going to preach the Bible? This is an arbitrary question, but we can’t assume it. Some see the Bible as too difficult and offensive for listeners steeped in secular cultures. But if we understand that our task is to help people hear from God, we must preach the Bible because that is where the power is. I don’t trust myself enough not to.

How are you going to discern your message from the Bible? We can preach deductively, beginning with the Bible because God is sovereign and we have to submit to what he has to say. Or we can preach inductively, beginning with the listener and believing that God speaks to the issues and needs of people today.

How are you going to communicate the message you have discerned? Cognitively, focusing on the ideas of Scripture, offering a logical and rational appeal to the listener of the sermon? Or affectively, focusing on the images of the sermon, aiming for a more emotive, affective impact so as to motivate listeners to obedience to God?


David Kolb’s model of learning styles: cognitive vs. affective, deductive vs. inductive. This leads to four types (structures) for preaching:

  1. Declarative (cognitive and deductive) – example: John MacArthur, Jr. This is like the lawyer presenting a case. This is head-first preaching. Once people’s thinking is correct, everything else will follow. MacArthur doesn’t have patience for stories. This is a good approach, but it is not the only way.
  2. Pragmatic (cognitive and inductive) – example: Rick Warren. This is like the detective who solves a mystery. The listener is emphasized in this approach. It is still a very cognitive approach: seven ways to do this, how-to approaches, etc. The difference between MacArthur and Warren is not in cognition, it is where they start (Bible vs. audience, deductive vs. inductive).
  3. Narrative (affective and inductive) – example: Eugene Lowry. This is like a novelist who tells a story. Instead of outlines, it uses plots. It works really well with a narrative text. Lowry uses this approach for any genre: there is a story even in a text like Romans.
  4. Visionary (affective and deductive) – example: Rob Bell. This is like the artist who paints a picture. When you view art, you see the finished product. The product confronts you at an affective level and you have to respond. Preaching (and Scripture) can call for a response at the affective level.

Should we match genre with structures? Preach declarative sermons from epistles, narrative sermons from narratives, visionary sermons from poetry? That would be progress, but there’s more. We’ll come back and look at an integrative approach.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada