Reflections on Inductive preaching
[Portions of this material were presented at Freed Hardeman University on February 10, 2012]
What is Inductive Preaching?
Inductive Preaching refers to a sermon which unfolds in an inductive way. Generally speaking there are deductive and inductive sermons based on deductive and inductive thinking.
How We Think
Inductive preaching uses the process of inductive thinking to guide the unfolding of the sermon. Deductive preaching employs the procedures of deductive thinking to map the presentation of the lesson. In order to understand inductive or deductive preaching, it is necessary to understand inductive and deductive thinking.
The distinction between inductive and deductive thinking goes back as far as Plato. Inductive thinking begins with specifics and moves to the general. Deductive thinking starts with the general and moves to the specific. All people use both methods of thinking.
Examples of Deductive and Inductive Thinking
For example, suppose Don knows that Bus 859 on Central Avenue stops at 4th Street every hour on the half hour. That is a general rule. Then Don sees by his watch that it is 9:26 A.M. Since he knows the general rule, he then deduces the bus should arrive in about four minutes. He takes the general rule and comes to a specific conclusion. His deductive reasoning is confirmed when the bus stops at 9:30 A.M.
Mary recently moved into an apartment near 4th and Central. While she reads by the front window she notices that Bus 859 stops in front of her apartment. One morning she decides to keep track of when the bus comes. It arrived at 8:30 A.M. then again at 9:30 and 10:30. Perhaps she notices it is sometimes a minute earlier or later, but generally it is half past the hour. She concludes that the schedule calls for the bus to stop in front of her apartment every hour on the half hour. Mary reasons inductively by taking specific cases of the bus stopping to draw a general conclusion about its schedule.
Perhaps the scientific method serves as the classic example of inductive reasoning. The scientist goes into the lab to mix two chemicals together and carefully records the results. She collects specific data. After analyzing the data certain patterns develop permitting her to propose a hypothesis. She returns to the lab to test her theory. When it is confirmed by constant results in specific experiments, she draws a general conclusion.
The syllogism serves as the classic example of deductive reasoning. Consider the three parts of the commonly expressed syllogism.
- All men are mortal.
- Socrates is a man.
- Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
The syllogism begins with a general principle and then moves to the specific.
Culture and Thinking
Our cultural conditioning prompts the use of one or the other. It would seem odd for us to hear this deductive announcement on Sunday: “All men are mortal. Jim Smith is a man. Jim Smith is mortal. Jim died Saturday.” We would expect this inductive announcement: “Jim Smith died Saturday. We express our sympathy to the family. Life is short and we all face death.” The first announcement unfolded deductively while the second came inductively.
As we dress in the morning we may think inductively. After checking the thermometer we see it is 27 degrees. We think, since it is cold, I’ll wear my sweater and winter coat. Cold weather makes me uncomfortable unless I’m dressed warmly. We started with the specific (the current temperature) and moved to the general (how we dress in cold weather). However, we might have thought deductively: Cold weather makes me dress differently. When it’s cold I wear my winter coat. I’ll check the temperature. Since I see it is 27 degrees, I’ll wear my winter coat. In the second case we first thought about our general practice, and then checked the specifics to see how the principle applied that day.
Biblical Examples of Inductive and Deductive Thinking
We find the same alternation between inductive and deductive thinking in the Bible. Paul is inductive in Philemon:
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… 8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul– an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus– 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.
Note that Paul begins by mentioning specific people. The letter does not begin in a general way (see an example of a general introduction in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul an apostle — not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia”), but with specific mention of Philemon, Apphia and Archippus. But beyond that he begins his argument in Philemon not in a deductive way by saying, “I want to take up the issue of slavery and make three points.” Instead he begins, “Let me talk to you about Onesimus.” Paul reasons inductively.
Yet, in Philippians 2, Paul reasons deductively:
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Paul uses a long “if-then” sequence to provide motivation before stating his general principle in vv 3-4: selflessness. He unfolds the premise of his material in several ways in vv 3-4. Then in the rest of the chapter he gives three specific examples of selflessness: Jesus, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul reasons deductively.
Inductive Bible Study
Generally speaking, our Bible study should be inductive. We consider the Bible the source of our doctrine. We do not find doctrine elsewhere and then import it into Scripture. Our understanding of truth emerges from our examination of the specific cases of truth in Scripture. We do not decide what is generally true and then go to the Bible to illustrate it or support what we have previously decided.
Alexander Campbell makes this exact point. Bible truths should be taught “not as abstract speculative truths, as in our human creeds or catechisms, but as other true sciences are taught—inductively.” He continues by noting, “The inductive style of inquiring and reasoning, is to be as rigidly carried out in reading and teaching the Bible facts and documents as in the analysis and synthesis of physical nature” [Alexander Campbell, “How to Teach the Bible,” Millennial Harbinger, Series 3, VII (1950), 171-74]. Campbell opposed starting with a creed book as general premise and then going to scripture to support it in a deductive manner. He urged an inductive approach to Bible study.
Exegesis and Eisegesis
The terms exegesis (from a Greek word meaning “to draw out”) and eisegesis (from a Greek word meaning “to draw in”) generally reflect these two processes. Exegesis describes the process of reading the Bible inductively by drawing out of the text the principles of the faith. Exegesis begins with an open minded reading of the text seeking to find the intention of the original author. Meaning and truth exists within the Biblical text. Our task is to uncover it by study. Exegesis comes to an understanding (conclusion) of what it meant by searching in the text for clues (specifics) about its meaning. Exegesis calls for reading and studying the Bible before reading commentaries or sermon outline books.
Eisegesis reflects the process of reading into the text. This approach truncates real Bible study by approaching the biblical material with a conclusion in mind that the text must support without gathering data to see if the passage is actually teaching that doctrine.
A former professor of mine, Jack Lewis, used to cite Genesis 32:48-49 as a case of eisegesis. He noted that many married couples put the line from verse 49 on their wedding rings: “The LORD watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other.” At first glance it appears that the Biblical text offers a promise about husbands and wives who are absent from each other. However, the context takes these words in a different direction:
48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he named it Galeed, 49 and the pillar Mizpah, for he said, “The LORD watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other.”
Laban and Jacob at odds with one another agree to separate. To insure that no further injustices take place, Laban calls on God to keep track of them so that they do not harm each other again. An exegesis of the passage (inductive) leads to a different conclusion than the eisegesis (deductive) of the material.
Key Elements of Inductive Preaching
Inductive preaching thus uses the inductive thinking method to guide how a sermon unfolds. In general, there are several key qualities of an inductive sermon:
- An inductive sermon begins with specifics and moves to general principles.
- Inductive sermons often do not verbalize a conclusion.
- Sermons preached inductively generally have only one point.
- Inductive sermons often include stories to illustrate the point.
- Inductive preaching often uses narrative and on occasion can be totally narrative.
- Most inductive sermons mix both inductive and deductive thinking.
Sources on Structures of Inductive Preaching
Those who use inductive preaching find different ways of structuring a sermon inductively. This treatment of inductive preaching uses one method to illustrate the larger point. Consult these books for other kinds of inductive structures in sermons:
- Ralph & Gregg Lewis, Inductive Preaching (Crossway, 1983).
- Chris Altrock, Preaching to Pluralists (Chalice Press, 2004).
- Chris Altrock, Rebuilding Relationships (Chalice Press, 2008).
- Ronald Allen, Patterns of Preaching (Chalice Press, 1998).
Inductive Sermons in the Bible: Old Testament
The Bible itself contains inductive sermons. Two are presented here:
Isaiah 40:12-31 is an inductive sermon. To explain how this sermon is inductive, exegesis is necessary. Begin by isolating a unit of text. Most agree that Isaiah 39 completes a major section of the book. The trial passage at the beginning of Isaiah 41 also begins a new section. That isolates Isaiah 40 as a possible unit. Isa 40:1-11 revolves around the three voices who speak in the presence of God. The remaining portion, Isa 40:12-31 appears to be a sermon Isaiah preaches about God. It unfolds inductively.
This presentation divides Isaiah’s sermon into three movements (not points in a deductive sense). Observe how Isaiah presents a series of 19 specific examples in this first movement:
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has instructed him? 14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
Note in vv 12-17 a concentration of verbs of thinking and evaluation: measure, marked, enclosed, weighed, directed, counsel, instructed, consult, enlighten, taught, showed, understanding, accounted, and accounted. Isaiah uses a series of specific questions that raise the issue of thinking or evaluation. He offers 19 comparisons but only tells us once whom he is comparing (see v 13). Yet in this lesson, Isaiah never states his point. Yet the point is clear: no one thinks or evaluates like God.
The material could just as easily be presented deductively. Isaiah might have begun by saying, “God is incomprehensible, that is, he is beyond our understanding. For example, who can understand the process of measuring the oceans with the palm of one’s hand? We can’t do that, but God can.”
But Isaiah’s lesson is not finished. Note the use of the words “compare” or “like” in the second segment of the overall sermon, Isaiah 40:28-26:
18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 The idol! a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is impoverished chooses for an offering wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an image that will not move. 21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Isaiah uses like or compare 5 times. God is mentioned at the beginning in v 18 and then He is compared to four other entities: idols, humans, earthly rulers and the heavenly hosts. Although Isaiah never states it directly, he finds no suitable entity to which God compares. His unstated point is no one is like God.
One could use Isaiah’s material in a deductive fashion: He might have said, “God is incomparable. For example, the comparison between God and idols fail. Idols are human constructions that tip over and say nothing. An idol does not help us understand God.”
Isaiah concludes his lesson in Isaiah 40:27-31:
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hid from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Note the concentration of verbs about energy or capability: hid, disregarded, everlasting, faint, weary, unsearchable, power, exhaustion, fall, wait, renew, run, and walk. Israel does not hear, know, walk or run. In contrast God knows all, hears all and never wears out. Isaiah makes bold deductive statements about God: the LORD is the everlasting God and the LORD is the Creator of the ends of the earth. However, his point is not a deductive sermon on God’s eternal or creative nature. He uses these deductive statements as specific examples of his larger unstated point: God’s energy exceeds that of humans.
The same material could have been presented deductively. “God is inexhaustible. He never wears out unlike humans who wear out all the time. God’s inexhaustible nature is illustrated by the eagle that from a human point of view seems to never wear out.
This sermon by Isaiah is largely a series of specific questions and concrete images He clusters the questions and images around certain thoughts. His unstated sub issues are:
- God is incomprehensible.
- God is incomparable.
- God is inexhaustible.
However, those doctrinal points are not the focus of the lesson. In this inductive sermon, Isaiah seems to have a larger point in mind. He writes to exiles who doubt God because He seems to have lost the last war and out of His weakness allowed them to go into captivity. The exiles think they have God figured out, compare Him unfavorably with Babylonian idols and political power and think He just got tired and quit. Isaiah instead presents a lesson of a vastly different God who is interested enough in their situation to take action and is strong enough to succeed. God can do what you need Him to do!
Inductive Sermons in the Bible: New Testament
Lk 15:1-3 provides the context for an inductive sermon of Jesus that follows a brief interchange between Jesus and the religious authorities:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable.
V 1 reports that Jesus eats with sinners. V 2 tells the response of the religious leaders to Jesus’ actions in v 1. Jesus then responds with a parable, which actually turns into three stories: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father and the two sons. The third parable (Lk 15:11-32) unfolds this way:
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry. 25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ 31 And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”
Jesus tells a story about a father and two sons, a parable rich in meaning. The identity of the three key figures in the story seems clear in light of the context of Lk15:1-3. The father represents God or Jesus. The younger son takes the role of the sinners of v 1 while the elder brother represents the religious leaders of v 2. Given that all three parables are about something lost (a sheep, a coin, two sons) and that Jesus was ministering to the lost at the time of the critique of the religious leaders, the unstated point of the sermon is: Lost people matter to God. The story is specific telling about three individuals, but the point is a general teaching, indeed a universal one, about God’s love for the lost.
The individuals in the story make some deductive statements: the lost are found, the dead are alive, but Jesus never states his point verbally in this inductive sermon.
Nine Steps in Preparing an Inductive Sermon
No two preachers will prepare a sermon in the same way, but some general parameters might serve to guide the process of producing an inductive sermon.
1—Exegete the Biblical Text
The first step in preparing an inductive sermon revolves around the biblical text. There are many guides available on “how to exegete a text.” Douglas Stuart’s, Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors [Westminster John Knox; 4th edition, 2009] can readily serve students of both testaments. In short, determine the unit of the text (see the above discussion on determining what to include in Isaiah’s sermon in Isa 40). Read and reread the passage in different versions and if possible in the original language. Seek to answer the questions: What is the point? What is the message? What truth is taught?
If preaching from Isa 40, the exegete concludes that Isaiah’s sermon tells people that God both cares about their predicament and has power to solve it. If the sermon arises out of Luke 15, the point of Jesus’ third parable connects with God’s love of lost people.
2—Exegete the Audience
Think about the congregation or the group that will hear this sermon: What bothers them? What struggles do they have? What questions do they ponder? What doubts plague them?
If preaching from Isa 40, ask what does the audience think about God? Are they reading the host of books being published that probe deep questions about the divine being? What do the young people think about God? Is their view of God linked to their leaving the church? Are there people who think God has deserted them?
If speaking on Luke 15, think about questions that people in the audience have about lost people? Do they know lost people? Do they tell lost people about God? Do they behave like the religious leaders? What do they think about their own loved ones that leave the faith just as the younger son in the parable left the family?
3—Find Great Intersection
Find the question the audience is asking that the Biblical text is answering. Call this “the great intersection.” Somewhere the people have an issue that Scripture addresses. Find that intersection. That intersection becomes the point of the lesson.
If speaking from Isa 40, the intersection might be found in young people who reject the God they heard about at church. They think He does not care and is powerless to solve their problems.
If preaching from Luke 15, the intersection might be to take up family members that were once faithful, but have wondered from the faith. Everybody in the pew knows loved ones who have given up on Christianity.
4—Find an opening story that expresses the audience’s question.
These stories can be from the Bible, from life or from movies or books. For example, for the sermon on Isa 40, Will Willimon tells of talking to a coed at his college. She claimed to be an atheist. He asked her to tell him about the God she didn’t believe in. She did. Willimon listened to her description of God and said, “I don’t believe in that God either.” The story echoes the questions that the young people (and their parents) in the congregation are asking about God.
If preaching from Luke 15 tell about a young person from the congregation’s past who was faithful during the high school years and then left God and the church. That story captures the questions people are asking about loved ones who have drifted away.
5—Interpret the story by verbalizing the questions raised by the story.
After telling the story, transition with the line “That story raises some questions.” Then list several questions. What did that coed believe about God that was so different from the Bible? Do people end up with the wrong impression of God? Are some of us misinformed? Why do we not understand God clearly? After telling about a prodigal from the congregation, list several questions: Are we supposed to give up on young people like that? Do they ever come back? What can we do?
6—Point to Scripture as the answer to the questions.
After raising the questions, transition to Scripture with lines such as, “Here is a passage that may help” or “Luke seems to take up that issue in chapter 15.” The transition might also be done by a brief personal story of why the preacher started reading this text: “These questions came to mind as I was reading through Isaiah or Luke.”
7—Present the relevant results of the exegesis.
The sermon now takes a tour of the Biblical text. The preacher serves as a tour guide helping the group make their own discovery. The preacher provides background and context. The preacher leads in such a way that listeners see what the preacher saw in his study.
A sermon on Isaiah 40 might describe the discouraged exiles who witnessed the destruction of their way of life and their journey into captivity. All around them were idols of the Babylonian religion and symbols of Babylonian power. Their God paled in comparison. Isaiah responds by a striking series of comparisons. A sermon on Isa 40 could not cover all of Isaiah’s points in detail, but the preacher takes the audience by several so that they begin to see how Isaiah responded to the same issue raised in the opening story. Somewhere in the sermon the listener concludes: God both cares about us and has power to help us.
A sermon on Luke 15 might retell the first part of the story about the younger son leaving home providing enough background to describe his state. Verse 20 might become a critical turning point in the lesson as the father waited for the younger son’s return and models how those who have drifted away should be treated upon their return. Verse 28 would also be important as the father recognizes that the son who never left the house has never really been at home. The father seeks to restore the two brothers to each other and the family just as God desires to do that with the ones who have drifted away and those who have stayed. Somewhere in the sermon the listener concludes: My lost loved one matters to God and He joins me in wanting the lost one home.
8—Use illustrations with the same point as the Biblical text.
These life experiences show that the passage does respond to the questions people are asking. Tell about a college student who ended up in a Bible study on God. One night she suddenly realized that God was not who she thought He was. He cared about her. He willingly used His power to help her face the issues of life. That young woman caught the message of Isaiah. Or tell about a prodigal who came home. In the story find ways in which that return echoed the issues raised in Luke 15.
9—Decide how to end.
Inductive sermons can end either deductively or inductively. Since the biblical text has a point, the sermon must lead the listeners to fully comprehend that meaning.
On some occasions the sermon may need a deductive ending to make sure the point is received. The Isa 40 sermon might end with a line about how we are often like the exiles who think God is dead or unconcerned, when he is out measuring the ocean size in the palm of his hand and lifting up the weak like an eagle soars into the air. The Luke 15 story may need a few deductive suggestions: What can we do to respond like this father in Luke 15? Make three suggestions: 1—Leave the light on. Somehow make sure that when that prodigal hits bottom, they know you are waiting at the door with the light on. 2—Be ready. Do enough soul searching about the past that when the prodigal comes home you are prepared to give the robe and party not a frown and lecture. 3—Pray. There is nothing in the story about prayer, but in a sense the whole story is about what matters to God. How does he know what matters to us? Prayer. Pray for your prodigal.
On other occasions the tour through the biblical text and the parallel stories make the point so clear that nobody could miss it. It might be helpful to restate the questions knowing that now the people know the biblical answer. In some cases if the opening story has an unknown ending, now is the time to complete the story. The sermon might end this way: At the beginning I mentioned that a young person grew up in this church and then left God. I never told you who that was. But you all know him. He is one of our deacons. The audience will get the point inductively: lost people matter to God and God calls us to rejoice when they come home.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Inductive Preaching
Q: What is the difference between expository preaching and inductive preaching?
A: They belong to two separate categories. One category includes expository or textual or topical preaching. This category reflects the sermon’s relationship to the Bible. Expository sermons take large sections of text and preach the point of that section. Textual sermons take a verse and preach the point of the verse. Topical sermons gather up scattered passages on a topic and preach them. Inductive and deductive refer to the way the sermon unfolds. One could do an inductive expository sermon (such as the ones from Isa 40 and Luke 15) or an inductive textual sermon or an inductive topical sermon.
Q: Is inductive preaching less clear? Does each person get their own individual message?
A: Deductive preaching offers more clarity if the sermon seeks to inform or perhaps convince the listener. Inductive preaching offers more clarity if the sermon seeks to stimulate or motivate the listener. In inductive preaching the goal is for each listener to get the biblical point. However, instead of being told what the biblical point is, they see the biblical point on their own. Biblical inductive preaching does not allow listeners to make up their own doctrine, but allows them to see for themselves what the Bible is saying.
Q: Is inductive preaching just a way of letting culture drive the sermon?
A: Culture is a complex word used in different ways. Often it is associated with language so we talk about the Greek culture or the Russian culture. Those cultures revolve around their language. The Bible is translated into the cultural languages of the world because the truth transcends culture and can be carried by any language. So if the sermon is addressed to the Russian culture, it should be in Russian and thus the culture does drive the sermon.
Many people use the word culture to refer to the consumer culture that demands choice and resists any attempt to dictate behavior. Clearly, Christianity goes in a vastly different direction. “Take up your cross and follow me” does not fare well in the consumer culture. That culture must never drive the sermon.
Q: If inductive sermons often do not state the point, how can the preacher be sure that the listeners get the core of the message?
A: The biblical message when properly stated and explored makes its own point. The inductive sermon through its emphasis on exegesis takes the listener to the biblical text within the proper context and says, “Don’t you see what I see.” If in doubt, end deductively.
Q: What are the most prominent needs addressed by inductive preaching?
A: Inductive preaching responds to the questions people ask. Inductive preaching models good exegetical Bible study so that the listener learns to study the Bible and not be dependent on the preacher for learning how to understand God’s word.
Q: Must inductive preaching be used in narrative texts from the Bible?
A: Clearly narrative texts are inductive in their approach to truth, but they need not be handled inductively. For example, the book of Esther is one long story. The point of the book is easy to miss. An inductive sermon might add to that dilemma. It might be better to approach Esther deductively by beginning the sermon with the general premise: God works through providence. Let’s look at how that unfolds in Esther. Then the sermon finds 3-4 points about providence played out in the Esther story
Q: Can the inductive preaching method be used with non-narrative passages, for example the epistles in the NT?
A: The epistles lend themselves to inductive preaching because there is often a central point to the entire letter. For example, 1 Peter explains how to live as a resident alien, how to live as a Christian in a culture that opposes Christianity. Start with a story about how difficult it is to be a teenager in many high schools. How do you live as a Christian in that kind of environment? Peter takes up that issue in 1 Peter. Then exegete the book by showing how Peter responded to the issue in his time.