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Too How-To

When an engaging sermon form turns wooden

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Perhaps you've heard the story of the young man who went to the library and spotted a book titled How to Hug. Interested in this provocative heading, he took it home. It wasn't until he tried to read the book that the man discovered it was merely volume seven of the encyclopedia.

Just as How to Hug is an incomplete portion of the encyclopedia, the how-to sermon is only one of many ways to preach. Although how-to sermons can be biblical and appealing, a steady diet may become tedious, or worse, distort the text.

What qualifies as a how-to sermon?

Four characteristics of how-to sermons

The how-to sermon is prescriptive
Prescriptions are necessary. Every day I take a medication prescribed by my neurologist. The medicine prevents seizures, and without it I wouldn't be able to drive or swim. My doctor diagnosed a problem and prescribed a solution.

How-to preaching does the same. It says, "Here is what's wrong, and here's how to fix it." Obviously, this is a necessary part of preaching. We point ...

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