One of my astute members had this to say about my message, The Antioch Model, preached February 27, 2005.
As you are already aware, I’m still trying to figure out why we do alliteration at all. If there are more than 3 points, then statistically speaking, alliteration doesn’t help us remember the points any better — in fact, it can have the opposite effect!
Sorry. I can’t help it — the word-lover in me cries out against tragic exploitation of any kind, but especially alliteration. In poetry, subtle alliteration can be cool in small doses. In preaching, on the other hand — ok, I’ll shut up now.
This makes for interesting and light conversation.
Just for the fun of it, I’d like to consider John MacArthur’s outlines for three messages he preached this week at the Shepherd’s Conference….
The first from Luke 11 had five points:
False religion is exposed.
1. They have a love for the symbolic.
2. They have a love for the sinful.
3. They have a love for the simplistic.
4. They have a love for the secondary.
5. They have a love for status.
1. Recognize the terrorists’ presence.
2. Remember the terrorists’ past.
3. Revealing the terrorists’ profile.
4. Relating the terrorists’ punishment.
5. Rescuing the terrorists’ prey.
From Luke 9:46-52
1. Pride ruins unity.
2. Pride raises relativity.
3. Pride reveals depravity.
4. Pride rejects deity.
5. Pride reverses (?) reality.
6. Pride reacts with exclusivity.
7. Pride restrains mercy.
Outlines do stick. That’s why I never read MacArthur’s Commentary until I have completed my sermon preparation. I tend to read his commentaries for a fresh look on what I have studied and some confirmation of my own exegesis. Also, I think there may be something accessible about these kinds of outlines. I have listened to John for a number of years and I sometimes think that part of the reason for his success besides the obvious blessing of God is the fact that he makes his messages accessible to everyone. A fourth-grader could write down his outlines.
I am very hesitant to do this lest I be misunderstood. I revere preaching and I respect preachers, so this is just an attempt to help me become a better preacher. Let’s do a very superficial analysis of his outlines.
First, the goal in alliteration, in my opinion, is to highlight the word that carries the point. MacArthur’s doesn’t necessarily do this in the last illustration. What does recognize, remember, revealing, relating, and rescuing tell us about the text all by themselves? Nothing really.
However, the words symbolic, sinful, simplistic, secondary, and status are key words that encapsulate the point and help to summarize the John’s conclusion about what Luke says concerning false religion.
With the Jude outline, two words in each point are alliterated, plus there is parallelism. John may have made all five points parallel by making each an imperative (or participle) which looks neater on paper, but I didn’t write it down that way.
My outline (Context, Constituency, Character, Consonance, Coordinator, and Commission) is an attempt to highlight the key word of each point, the word that encapsulates the emphasis of the point. I think those words do exactly that. However, if I may criticize myself, I think some of those words aren’t very accessible to my 10 year old listeners. I need to improve there. In short, if John MacArthur can alliterate, I can at least try!
However, I have heard many messages that were ruined by alliteration. I’ve done it myself, although I try to avoid it. There are many times when alliteration will detract from the sermon. Other times it could become a point of pride for the pastor. Words are, after all, the “stuff of his craft” as Dr. McLachlan used to say. I might also say that pastors are not poets or speechwriters. They are men who are trying to “find acceptable words” (Ecc. 12:10). Thus, they might instinctively know what is going to carry the point.
I’d be real interested to see what others have to say about this. Does anyone have funny examples of bad alliteration they would be willing to share?
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