At church this morning, I was thinking about where my pastor is effective in terms of his homiletical style. The pastor was asking the congregation questions about redwood trees to illustrate a sermon point, and a child was answering one of them. That stood out to me because it intrigues me when children listen to the sermon, especially since I recall that I didn’t listen to the sermon at church that often when I was a kid! If your sermon is interesting enough that a child is listening to it, then you’re doing a pretty good job, in my opinion.
I think that my pastor is effective at interacting with the audience—-asking them questions that keep them listening. Such questions include, “Have you been to this place?”, “How deep do you think the roots of the redwood tree are?”, “Does anyone here remember Roy Campanella?”, etc. In some cases, I don’t know the answers to his questions because I’m from a younger generation than most of the people at my church—-though I will say that there were times when I did know the answers, even about things that go back before my time! I knew who Roy Campanella was, for example, because I saw him on an old episode of Lassie.
In my own sermons, should I aim to be more interactive with the congregation? I can see myself falling flat by asking a question that nobody answers. For example, I doubt that I’d be overly effective were I to ask a factual question like “How deep do you think are the roots of a redwood tree?” But I probably could be effective in asking people if they’ve been to such-and-such a place, or heard of such-and-such a person. Why? Because, in that case, it wouldn’t disrupt my message if the answer is no. I could just ask the question, and move on even if nobody answers. When I ask a factual question, however, it would look awkward if nobody ventured an answer. With a factual question, in short, I’m more dependent on the audience.