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Sermons by Rams

I was reading about the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple computers Jonathan Ive this morning. His products have completely revolutionized the industry. His products like the Macbook Air and the Ipad are truly amazing feats of engineering. What is so amazing about them is how simple, precise, functional and durable they really are. It is said that Jonathan Ive’s products are heavily influenced by the German designer legend Dieter Rams.

In the 1960’s Dieter Rams proposed these 10 Principles to “Good Design”. They are as follows:

Good Design…

  1. •is innovative
  2. •makes a product useful
  3. •is aesthetic
  4. •makes a product understandable
  5. •is unobtrusive
  6. •is honest
  7. •is long-lasting
  8. •is thorough down to the last detail
  9. •is environmentally friendly
  10. •is as little design as possible

These design principles are clearly observed in most of Apple’s popular products.

When I read this list of design principles I was reminded how a good sermon is designed in similar fashion.

A Good Sermon…

  1. •is innovative – a congregation over the years will have heard certain biblical passages preached on several times. It is the duty of the preacher to dig deep into the passage and unearth gems from the text that the hearer may have not previously discovered.
  2. •makes a product useful – Good exegesis must come before hermeneutics and personal application. However, it is the duty of the preacher to help the audience understand how the particular text under consideration can be “useful” to their lives and beneficial to their spiritual well being.
  3. •is aesthetic – A well put together sermon truly is a work of art. When the thesis of the sermon is well defined, when all the points are in support of a main idea and the sermon coupled with applicable illustrations, it is a masterpiece. A sermon must be pleasing to the listener (not in a 2 Timothy 4 “itching ears” sort of way), but in a way that lets the audience know what the preacher has said and the direction of the lesson.
  4. •it makes the product understandable – For illustration purposes, consider the biblical text “the product”. Too many easy to understand passages have been made opaque by poor preaching. A good sermon takes a particular bible passage and presents it in a way that is easy for the entire audience to understand.
  5. •is unobtrusive – A sermon must not draw attention to itself but to the text it is expounding upon.
  6. •is honest – The preacher must do his homework and present the text in the way the original author intended it. I preacher must not “twist” or “distort” the Scriptures , for that leads to the destruction of the hearers.
  7. •is long lasting – The impact of a good sermon will last for eternity. A good sermon’s affects will be observed in the souls that are being changed by it. Well designed products will ultimately fall apart, but the affects of a good sermon are everlasting.
  8. •is thorough down to the last detail – A good sermon is thought out down to the words and the tenses used. A good sermon has been refined over and over again.
  9. •is environmentally friendly – A preacher must take into consideration the level of biblical knowledge of his audience. Depending on the venue, a sermon will be changed in order to have the greatest impact. A sermon given in at mountain retreat will be different from one in a lecture hall. A good sermon is appropriate for the occasion and is thus “environmentally friendly”.
  10. •is as little design as possible – This point may appear on the surface to be contradictory to others. A sermon and a good product will be well designed and will have hours of work poured into it. A good sermon will be well designed, but it will not force its design upon the listeners. A sermon may be based upon pages after pages of greek exegesis, penciled notes and flow charts, however the final product will be the concise conclusion present in the pulpit. The congregation will know the design is there, but it is not forced upon them.

May all sermons reflect these principles of “good design”.

Cliff Sabroe

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3 Comments

  1. and if a preacher uses a Mac while preaching, his sermon is unstoppable

  2. Wesley

    October 31, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    This was the ultimate fanboy post.

  3. Now I’m sure a reverse post about Windows correalated to the characteristics of bad sermons is on the way.

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