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Practicing the Principle of Differentiation

How to consistently connect with your hearers.

Practicing the Principle of Differentiation
Image: Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty

The sermon tanked and, consequently, I felt miserable. Perhaps I’m guilty of placing too much of my identity in preaching but when my sermons flop it makes for a long and sad Sunday. My homiletical despair, however, wasn’t located in the study; I had labored on the preparation and felt good about the sermon’s content and structure. Moreover, I had spent time in prayer asking for God’s grace as I preached. But as I was delivering the message I could feel it falling flat. It simply wasn’t connecting and, even behind their masks, the congregants couldn’t hide their boredom.

So, after the final song, a few perfunctory fist bumps and some quick comments to “have a safe week,” I beat a hasty retreat to my car. All the way home I brooded over what happened—or more accurately—what didn’t happen in the sermon. And after a time of analysis, I concluded the sermon fizzled because I failed to practice the principle of differentiation. ...

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