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March 12, 2019

Preaching is an A.R.T.

By Josh Laxton

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you hear the word “art,” but I tend to think of paintings like the Mona Lisa. But art is much broader than paintings. Of course, the always trustworthy Wikipedia defines art as “a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts, expressing the author’s imaginative, conceptual idea, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.” Thus, art includes activities such as designing, acting, writing, and speaking.

Church leader, have you ever stopped to consider that preaching (or teaching) is an art? Preaching the Word is a similar activity to that of Shakespeare writing Hamlet, Van Gogh painting The Starry Night, Gaudi constructing the Sagrada Familia, Mozart composing Symphony No. 40, or Andrea Bocelli singing “Con Te Partiro.”

I want to share with you how I approach the A.R.T. of Preaching.

A–stands for AIM.

When I am crafting a message I always have gospel-transformation as my aim. I’m praying that Jesus transforms the hearts of the people who sit under the teaching of His Word. To arrive at gospel-transformation, I think of the audience I’ll be communicating to, the information/truth of the text, and how to apply that truth to the heart of the listener. If you are a formula or math person, think of it this way: Relationship + Truth + Application = Transformation

R–stands for RHYTHYM

I have initiated a preaching rhythm (or calendar) over the years. At the beginning of each year, I start with a mini-series to set the tone and direction for the church. This past year, I began with the series, “A New Thing” given that we were about to launch our strategic plan called Project New Thing.

For the spring, I go through a book of the Bible—verse by verse/chapter by chapter. However, I take a small break for Easter where I begin a series on Easter Sunday in hopes of creating an on-ramp to entice the “Chreasters” to finish out the series. I then go back to the book series until summer.

In the summer—particularly June and July—we have our cultural engagement series. In June, we have our T.E.D. (Theological. Educational. Discussions) series, which is designed to help Christians think biblically about topics relevant to our culture. In July, we have our A&E (Arts and Entertainment) series. This past July I did a series titled, Songs of the Greatest Showman.”

When school is back in session and we have entered into the fall, the preaching rhythm includes topical series that would apply to families or individuals. I’ve done series like, “How to Lose Your Family in 10 Easy Ways,” “Sticks and Stones: The Power of Words,” and “Scared to Death: Moving from Fear to Faith. These fall series are designed to teach people what the Bible says systematically about topics relevant to our lives. Finally, I conclude December with a Christmas series.

For me, this rhythm is helpful for a few reasons. First, it keeps the preaching fresh. I don’t feel like I get in a rut. Second, it creates on-ramps for new people. By having a few breaks throughout the year in beginning new series, it gives our people an opportunity to invite people to something “new.” Third, it tries—to a degree–to be all things to all people. In other words, it seeks to be diverse, as some people like preaching that goes through a book of the Bible; some people are accustomed to 3–5-week series; and some people are interested in knowing what the Bible says about a certain topic. And this rhythm tries to include all of that in a given year. So, for those who don’t like a certain series, I tell them to wait for the next—for not every series will be a home run in everybody’s eyes.

T–stands for TECHNIQUE(S).

The word technique is defined as “a way of carrying out a particular task—especially applied to the realm of artistic work or scientific procedures.” Applied to the art of preaching, what kind of technique or techniques are appropriate? Now while my rhythm consists of topical series and book studies, I almost always use the technique of expository preaching.

Expository preaching is doing exegetical and Christocentric (gospel-centered) work to lift out the main idea of a text and to craft it in such a way to teach the truth of God’s Word in a faithful and culturally relevant context in order that the hearers might know how to apply the transforming truth of God to their lives. While this is predominantly the technique I apply to crafting my messages, I do implement a variety of other techniques in my delivery. I’ll use props, word pictures, humor, personal stories, images, pictures, clips from movies or sitcom scenes, and even various facets of the English language and grammar.

When it comes to delivery, I’m always seeking the most effective way to communicate the truth in a meaningful and retentive way. I believe that we can (and should) use a variety of techniques to communicate God’s divinely inspired word. In fact, that is the way God had His Word written. There are various genres (narrative, apocalyptic, prose, etc.) and languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) that God used across the millennia to communicate His Word to the original context.

In conclusion, I believe preaching is an A.R.T., and for church leaders, pastors, and teachers, it is one of the most important art forms out there, for in what we craft on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis has the potential through the Spirit of God and through the truth of the Gospel, to bring life and community, and even world, transformation.



Josh Laxton

Josh has been serving the local church in vocational ministry for almost twenty years, mainly as a Lead Pastor replanting and revitalizing churches. Josh holds a PhD in North American Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, the Assistant Director of Lausanne North America, and the Director of the Rural Matters Institute at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.


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