The Power Packed Sentence And The Sermon

The Power Packed Sentence And The Sermon

I’m writing this week on a tactic I’m trying to improve in my preaching.  The power packed sentence and the sermon is an important part of making a sermon memorable.  I know this–in theory, at least.  I wrote something similar a few years ago, when I wrote about having one main point.  You can find that post here.

Here’s the reality of preaching: people aren’t going to remember a great deal of what you say, and the more you say, the less likely they will hear.  I had that experience this past Sunday.  My wife and I were visiting in a large, contemporary church, and I came to worship hoping for renewal through the worship and to be challenged by the Word.

The Good Part

The music was outstanding!  The message was good–especially the first part.  The preacher read and retold the story of Jacob running from Easau.   Jacob met God in Bethel as a result of that fantastic dream of Jacob’s ladder.  The preacher did a really good job of describing how the normal became supernatural.  Jacob says, in effect, “I didn’t know that this was the house of God, the gateway to heaven!”

The Good Gets Lost

Unfortunately, he went on from there.  I don’t remember much of the last part of the message and how it

Too much stuff

fit with the first part.  Of course, I was thinking about the subject for this past at the time, and so, I was sensitive to the fact that his message could have had greater  “oomph!”  if he had developed a punch line.  He needed to know about the power packed sentence and the sermon as a way to make it memorable.

A Power Packed Sentence Defined

I said at the beginning of this post that this is growth area for me, and that is one of the reasons that I’m writing on it today.  Easter Sunday is this week.  I have the privilege of preaching on the greatest event in all of history.  I want it to be memorable, to stick in peoples’ minds, and I know that if I can develop a power packed sentence, it will be more so.

So, what is this power packed sentence?  There’s a Greek word for it.  The Greek word is Anaphora.  Here’s a definition from a business blog about better communication:

Anaphora is a Greek term meaning repetition of words or phrases at each succeeding sentence’s beginning. This rhetorical technique is used for more powerful and memorable political or motivational speeches, like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He repeated the words “now is the time,” each with different actions such as “lift our nation,” “make justice,” and “rise from the dark,” all to convince his listeners to take action.

Another example is Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” during World War II. He reiterates the clause, “We shall fight…” seven times in the passage, each with a different location to show that his country would see the war to the end. This allowed the audience to recall the presenter’s focus and the message itself.

Note the Power Packed Sentences

If you have lived in the United States, you likely know about the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King.  It is one of the most memorized and celebrated  speeches in our history.  If you live in England, certainly you know of Winston Churchill’s speech.  What made these speeches so memorable?

Of course, there are many reasons for that, including the times in which they were spoken, but one part, certainly, was the use of Anaphora.

You may recognize this use of a repeating word or phrase as one of the organizing systems to use for your sermon.  It is the “flower” organization, or moving out stem to the petal and back again that is common to some African American preachers.  You can read more about this here on a post I did quite a long time ago on this blog.   This power packed sentence is similar to that strategy for memorable preaching.

In the next post we will explore how to create these kinds of power packed sentences.  For now, be aware that learning about the power packed sentence and the sermon will make your sermons more memorable.  Also, I’ll report on how I did with my attempt for this Easter.