There is a sense in which godliness grows. The Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians that he planted the seeds of faith among them, Apollos watered those seeds, but, ultimately, God caused their faith to grow (1 Corinthians 3).
The basic concept of a sticky sermon is to plant biblical ideas in the minds of your hearers which, over time, cause them to grow in godliness. Lately, I have been trying to develop this idea for my students in preaching class. What I’d like to do here is share and develop some of the basic tips and techniques for preaching sermons that stick in the minds of Christians.
There is a beauty to speaking with a Christian on a Thursday afternoon break and having him or her share what “Brother Bob” has been talking about on Sundays. Christians are to be salt and light in the world, so they need sermons which act as salting agents for their own minds–stimulating, seasoning, and preserving theological thoughts throughout the week so that when the opportunity arises, they are able to make biblical application to real-life situations in the workplace.
One of the techniques which can help to fuel this dynamic is what I call “Story Seeding.” Story seeding is simple, really, but it requires a little forward thinking. Imagine you were preaching or teaching from Ruth 1, the scene in which Orpah kisses Naomi good-bye, while Ruth clings unwaveringly to her:
“Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Here is a beautiful picture of loyalty and faith. But focus on the reality of what Ruth is saying and doing. She is turning away from her history, her roots, her homeland. She is leaving behind all that she has known of life in Moab, and she is walking by faith into a new reality and a new homeland, uncertain of her future, only certain of her commitment.
From this profound point, think forward to the week ahead. What major event will be taking place in the next week or two? What will people be hearing about or listening to or watching in the coming days? The Olympics. Soon, the pageantry of the Winter Olympics will unfold on televisions across the U.S. The color of the flags, the drama of the opening ceremony, the excitement of the competition—these events will impact people in the coming weeks.
So, take your point from Ruth 1 and attach it forward to what people will be seeing in the coming weeks, and you have just practiced “Story Seeding.” Here is how it might work:
Don’t you just love the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics? Oh, I don’t mean the weird tribal dances or enigmatic references to post-Industrialism which have plagued the prior Olympic Games. No, I mean the real festival of ethnicity which takes place as nation after nation walks through the arena with athletes acting as standard-bearers for an entire people—waving the colorful flags in procession, swelling with great pride at having the opportunity to represent their homeland.
Now, focus on any one of those athletes and imagine that person as Ruth. Imagine this athlete in the midst of the procession setting down their nation’s flag and walking over to the Jamaican group and saying, “I will go where you go. I will live as you live. Your nation will be my nation. Your people will be my people.” Could you imagine the scandal? How could someone do that–just walk away from their homeland? Trade nationality? Trade identity?
This is what Ruth has done. And she didn’t do it for any negative reason—as an athlete from North Korea or an oppressive Communist regime might try to do. No, Ruth forsook her country, her history, and her homeland for a positive reason: “your God will be my God.”
Okay, okay… I don’t want to preach the whole sermon here, but you get the point. You are illustrating forward in such a way that your people will be thinking about your preaching/teaching point all week, and, when the Olympic event itself happens, your folks are very likely to have this biblical story stirred inside their heads. Your sermon has become sticky; it has stuck itself not just into their intellectual data folder. It has now entered their everyday lives at a practical level which they can easily share.
That is a sticky sermon point! Give “Story Seeding” a try and see if it doesn’t help your teaching and preaching stick.