This structure identifies a significant question for the hearers (i.e., one that cannot be easily answered and that addresses matters that are significant to the hearers) and then theologically considers one or more feasible answers before arriving at a satisfactory resolution.
The question is simple, memorable, and remains the same throughout the entire sermon. It cannot be answered with a “yes or no” but invites the hearers into processing various answers. The movement toward a faithful answer provides the dynamic progression of the sermon. This progression could be a movement from false answers to a true answer or from partial answers to a full answer. The preacher avoids trite false answers that will insult the hearers and he seeks to have a final resolution that proceeds from the gospel.
The sermon usually opens by depicting the human or textual dilemma that raises the focusing question. The answers are then arranged in a climactic scheme, offering more development to the later answers. In dismissing the false or partial answers, the preacher is clear about the theological reasoning that guides the discussion and thereby teaches the hearers how to think through matters theologically. Along the way, the preacher is careful not to raise distracting issues or to change the question. Finally, the sermon concludes by proclaiming the satisfactory gospel-based answer.
© 2011 David Schmitt. All rights reserved.