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There are a number of different types
of sermons, that differ both in their subject matter and by
their intended audience, and accordingly not every preacher
is equally well-versed in every type. The types of sermons
Biographical sermons | tracing the story of a particular biblical character through a number of parts of the Bible.
Evangelistic sermons (associated with the Greek word kerygma) | seeking to convert the hearers or bring them back to their previous faith through a recounting of the foundational story of the religion, in Christianity, the Good News.
Expository preaching | exegesis, that is sermons that expound and explain a text to the congregation.
Historical sermons | which seek to portray a biblical story within its non-biblical historical perspective.
Hortatory sermons (associated with the Greek word didache) | exhort a return to living ethically, in Christianity a return to living on the basis of the gospel.
Illuminative sermons, also known as proems (petihta) | which connect an apparently unrelated biblical verse or religious question with the current calendrical event or festival.
Liturgical sermons | sermons that explain the liturgy, why certain things are done during a service, such as why communion is offered and what it means.
Narrative sermons | which tell a story, often a parable, or a series of stories, to make a moral point.
Redemptive-historical preaching | sermons that take into consideration the context of any given text within the broader history of salvation as recorded in the canon of the bible.
Topical sermons | concerned with a particular subject of current concern;
Sermons can be both written and spoken out loud.
Sermons also differ in the amount of time and effort used to prepare them. Some are scripted while others are not.
With the advent of reception theory, researchers also became aware that how sermons are listened to affects their meaning as much as how they are delivered. The expectations of the congregation, their prior experience of listening to oral texts, their level of scriptural education, and the relative social positions often reflected in the physical arrangement of sermon-goers vis-a-vis the preacher are part of the meaning of the sermon.
Albert Raboteau describes a common style of Black preaching first developed in America in the early 19th century, and common throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries:
The preacher begins calmly, speaking in conversational, if oratorical and occasionally grandiloquent, prose; he then gradually begins to speak more rapidly, excitedly, and to chant his words and time to a regular beat; finally, he reaches an emotional peak in which the chanted speech becomes tonal and merges with the singing, clapping, and shouting of the congregation.
Impromptu preaching is a sermon technique where the preacher exhorts the congregation without any previous preparation. It can be aided with a reading of a Bible passage, aleatory opened or not, or even without any scriptural reference.
The Bible says that the Holy Spirit gives disciples the inspiration to speak:
16: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
17: But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
18: And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
19: But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
20: For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
According to some people, when Jesus says "take no thought how or what ye shall speak" he is saying that it is better not to script your speeches or sermons, but to let the Holy Spirit of your Father speak through you. Others see the expression as simply a comforting exhortation not to worry or be anxious, but to rest confident that God is in control (cf. Phil. 2:12-13). In other places the apostle Paul emphatically underscored the importance of diligent work in study and preparation (I Tim. 4:13-16; II Tim. 2:15).
Today impromptu preaching is practiced by unprogrammed Quakers, Mennonites and some Pentecostals.
Extemporaneous preaching is a style of preaching involving extensive preparation of all the sermon except for the precise wording. The topic, basic structure and scripture to be used are all determined in advance, and the preachers saturate themselves in the details necessary to present their message so thoroughly that they are able to present the message with neither detailed notes nor perhaps even an outline. Consequently, unprepared preachers may find themselves unable to deliver a message with the same precision as people using detailed notes or memorizing detailed aspects of their speech.
While some might say this style is distinct from impromptu preaching, and that the preacher gives no specific preparation to their message, what Charles Spurgeon referred to as "impromptu preaching" he considered to be the same as extemporaneous preaching. He, in his sermon "The Faculty of Impromptu Speech", describes extemporaneous preaching as a process of the preacher immersing himself in the Scriptures and prayer, knowing it so well that he only needs to find the appropriate words in the moment that the sermon is given. He states,
Only thoughtless persons think this to be easy; it is at once the most laborious and the most efficient mode of preaching.
Henry Ware Jr. states,
The first thing to be observed is, that the student who would acquire facility in this art, should bear it constantly in mind, and have regard to it in all his studies and in his whole mode of study.
On the other hand, it is distinct from many other forms of memorized preaching. Proponents claim that the importance of preaching demands it be extemporaneous.
A reflecting mind will feel as if it were infinitely out of place to present in the pulpit to immortal souls, hanging upon the verge of everlasting death, such specimens of learning and rhetoric.
The style was popular in the late 19th century among Baptist (Primitive Baptist especially), Methodist, Unitarian, and some Presbyterians preachers, such as Black leach Burritt. Some of the more famous preachers who employed it were Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Charles Grandison Finney and Peter Cartwright.
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