TGIF! We live in a TGIF world – what Leonard Sweet calls the “Twitter” – “Google” – “Instagram” – “Facebook” world. People do not only consume these forms of social media (the Google empire really is a form of social media), people are altered by these forms of media, and this alteration affects peoples habits and thought patterns. One of the drawbacks of this TGIF culture, according to Sweet, is that the straightforward 3 point – expository sermon which teaches some major principle, no longer works. Sweet’s point might be a bit to strong however he is certainly right in pointing out that the TGIF culture demands a change in communication strategy.
Giving Blood is Sweet’s call to the church to take a fresh look at how we preach to a post-modern culture. It’s a call to adapt what he calls “semiotic” and “EPIC” preaching.
What is semiotic preaching? Quite simply it is “the art of exegeting not the words or principles, but the images, metaphors, and stories (narraphors) of Scripture.”
Here is what Sweet says:
Semiotic preaching is a new form of biblical preaching, but what is being exegeted are age-old stories and images, or what we might call “narraphors” – narrative metaphor.
Semiotic preaching builds on the tradition of “preaching as storytelling.”
Narraphoric preaching breaks down resistance, enters the unconscious quickly and causes the participant to fall into the lap, or trap, of truth. Narraphors get us thinking about something we may not want to think about. They force us to look at life in new ways and they outwit our reasoned defenses.
EPIC is an acronym which stands for “Experiential” – “Participatory” – “Image-Rich” – “Connective.” Preaching to post-moderns must not simply be about getting them to understand God, but to experience God. Preaching to post-moderns must move them from being passive recipients to active agents who initiate and make change. Preaching to post-moderns must be image-rich, preachers must take up the poet’s tools – image and imagination, rhyme and rhythm, simile, metaphor, and story. Preaching to post-moderns must be connective, invite people to connect with each other so they can better connect with Christ’s healing power and life-giving presence.
What is unique about Sweet’s book weaves these two “newer” principles of preaching into the traditional topics discussed in most preaching books: preparation, information gathering, nervousness, writers block, dealing with criticism, sermon construction, etc.
The most helpful parts of the book were his “Interactive” and his “Lab Practicum” sections. The interactive sections leads readers into exercises that will help make them better preachers and better observers of our TGIF culture. The exercises include everything from watching Youtube to reading a section of Eat, Pray, Love to listening to Three Doors Down. The Lab Practicums help shape preacher’s skills in particular areas of preaching.
Although I believe that Sweet over-exaggerates the extent that TGIF has permeated our culture; his suggestions regarding EPIC preaching should be readily adopted by any and all preachers.