According to the book ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath, (find a full summary on my favourite blog, What’s Best Next) one of the six key features of ideas that stick in people’s mind is the ‘Unexpected’. I’m convinced this is also a key feature of good sermons, but when you’re dealing with a Bible and a Gospel that don’t change, being unexpected is a challenge. Here are three strategies I use to make my sermon’s unexpected.
1. Exegetical insight. This is the best way to be unexpected – help people understand something new about a Bible passage, or see how it fits together for the first time. Of course there is a danger in simply adopting novel interpretations of passages just to be unexpected. However in my experience there is a stack of stuff that most people don’t understand about most passages, especially on how the overall argument/big idea ties together. So hard work on exegesis is definitely a key to being unexpected.
2. Unexpected application. Even if a passage is extremely well known. Eg the prodigal son or the paralysed man, you can still be unexpected by putting your application in fresh language or addressing our culture in a new way.
3. Unexpected Illustration. Illustrations won’t make up for constantly bland and shallow exegesis and application. But from time to time, an unexpected illustration will make a well known passage or point of application grab people’s attention.
Glad to hear if anyone has any other strategies for making sermon’s unexpected.