This structure examines a topic (e.g., Christian reconciliation) by identifying stages of development in a chronological framework (e.g., prayer and discernment of need for reconciliation, speaking privately to the person, speaking to the person with one or two others, delivering the concern over to the church). The dynamic unfolding of the topic forms the sequence of the sermon.
In using a process format, the preacher will want to pay attention to the use of detail (i.e., clarifying how one stage differs from the next), balance (i.e., developing the stages in proportion to their importance) and purpose (i.e., the function of this overview for the hearers). The preacher wants to be wary of using process with sanctification to mandate a specific process of growth for every Christian.
Process is often confused with serial causation. The difference lies in the function of identifying a process for the hearers. Whereas serial causation focuses upon the issue of causation in a series of events, process helps the hearers locate the topic within a series and recognize the implications of being at that point in the larger series. For example, gathering to worship with 35 people appears one way to a congregation when this is seen as the end of a process of slow decline and another way to a congregation when this is seen as the beginning of a mission plant. The topic (worship with 35 people) is the same but the process into which that topic is placed changes the interpretation of that topic.
Process, thus, expands the view of the hearers so that a topic experienced by them in time is placed within a larger chronological framework and that larger chronological framework, like a physician’s prognosis of healing or the identification of a particular trimester in pregnancy, shapes their expectations and experiences.
© 2011 David Schmitt. All rights reserved.