The Art and Science of Preaching, Part 5

Concerning the analogical sermon, Lloyd Perry writes, "The purpose of this sermonic pattern is to inform through the elaboration of a contrast or comparison which has already been either directly stated or clearly implied in the Scriptures."[1] The pattern serves well for preaching from the typological passages of the Bible, especially where it plainly declares that an analogy exists.

    As a pastor, on one particular occasion I sought to include some variety in preaching by using the analogical form for my sermon on a Sunday morning. For the biblical basis of the message, I chose one of Jesus' best known analogies: "You are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). It seemed to me that the subject the Master addressed in His remarks was "Christian Influence."

    His emphasis appeared to be a challenge for His followers to maintain their influence in the world. Thus my theme became "The Need for Maintaining Christian Influence in the World." My proposition was "For the reasons implied in Jesus' great golden text, ‘You are the salt of the earth,' we must maintain our Christian influence in the world." In choosing that as my proposition, I was following Hershael York and Bert Decker, who suggest that the preacher should "build application right into the proposition."[2]

    As to designing a proposition, Perry writes, "The third step in the construction of a sermon is the formulation of a proposition. . . . This part of the sermon has been referred to by different homiletical writers as the central idea, the controlling assertion, the statement, the big truth, the subject sentence, and the thesis."[3] In short, the proposition contains the entire sermon in the form of a single sentence. It also contains a key word. That word is always a noun and always plural. Donald Hamilton declares, "This keyword will always be a plural noun, for it is used to identify two or more ideas, or main points. There can be no exceptions to this."[4] It is the key word because it establishes the focus of each main point. In the proposition for this sermon, the key word is obviously reasons.

    Perry explains that the preacher may choose from among three kinds of propositions. One type is a statement of value, such as, "Praying is profitable." The second contains a declaration of "obligation or duty." It proposes that Christians should or must follow a certain course of action. In a sermon with this type of proposition, the speaker tells people what they should do and then explains why. In the outline of my example sermon, which appears below, the proposition is one of obligation. The third kind of proposition projects a "statement of activity without stated obligation. . . . In the third type of proposition, the emphasis is placed upon ability."[5] Here the preacher declares that believers can accomplish something and tells them how to do so. For example, by following the steps listed by Jesus in the Model Prayer, "we can become more effective in praying."[6]

    Following the suggestions for crafting a sermon, I put each of my main points into the form of what my key word suggests, reasons. Thus they became:

I.  As salt increases people's eating pleasure when it is used on food, so believers should make it possible for unbelievers about them to find more meaning in life.

II.  As salt serves as a preservative in the curing of such things as pork, so believers should contribute to preserving the moral fiber in a nation.

III.  As salt melts ice in such processes as making homemade ice cream, so the conduct of believers should be of such a nature as to assist in melting the hard hearts of sinners in preparing them for repentance.

IV.  As salt has antiseptic or germ-killing qualities, so the influence of believers should serve to curb sin in the lives of unbelievers and the society that surrounds them.

V.  As salt is a basic necessity to the health and well-being of the human body, so believers make a necessary contribution to the spiritual well-being of those about them.

    I sought to follow Perry's suggestions on the development of sub-points for the analogical sermon pattern. He advises that the homiletician "elaborate upon the physical elements" of the object in the analogy for the first sub-point; focus on the spiritual elements of the main point for the second; and in the third seek to point out ways of application of the truth in the comparison being made.[7] A practical suggestion from Hamilton is, "During delivery, the sub-points should not be numbered aloud. This can create difficulty for the listener in differentiating between sub-points and main points."[8] Reading the sermon outline below demonstrates that I followed the suggested pattern in listing the sub-points of each main point.

    The next step in developing this sermon was to formulate the introduction. I shared basic information on salt that I found in an article on the subject in the World Book Encyclopedia.[9] Then I focused on preparing the conclusion by including the usual elements found there. Concerning the matter of including illustrations in an analogical sermon, Perry observes, "Since the whole sermon is based upon the elaboration of an illustration, it is not considered too wise to make use of too many illustrations in the body of the message."[10]  Finally, I selected a title, which appears immediately below.

Salt-Shaker Christianity

Intro.  Of all the chemicals present on the earth, perhaps the most frequently used is salt.  An article from the World Book Encyclopedia provides the following information:

1.  It results from a mixture of sodium and chloride.

a.  It exists in both liquid and solid forms.

b.  Chemists speak of its liquid form as brine.

c.  Their title for un-mined salt is halite.

2.  Though salt is among the most commonly used of all chemicals, present on virtually every table in the land, many people have only a scant acquaintance with its versatility.

a.  Scholars tell us that it has some 14,000 uses!

b.  Such facts were likely not available when Jesus used His famous analogy of salt being representative of believers in the world.

c.  In his Sermon on the Mount, He declared to His followers, "You are the salt of the earth" (Matt 5:13).

3.  Those hearing His sermon that day, however, readily understood the more recognizable illustrations in His analogy.

Prop.  For the reasons implied in our Lord's great golden text, ‘You are the salt of the earth,' we must maintain our Christian influence in the world.

I.  As salt increases people's eating pleasure when it is used on food, so believers should make it possible for unbelievers about them to find more meaning in life.

A.  This was the obvious truth the Teacher intended to communicate that day.

1.  He began with a simple declaration, "You are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13a).

2.  Then He continued with, "But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (v. 13b).

B.  Clearly, then, once salt loses its seasoning quality, it is worthless.

C.  In the same way, nothing in the world appears more worthless than a Christian who, for whatever reason, has lost his influence among those who know him.

Though this is the Master's one emphasis, since our purpose is to drive the truth further home that, "You are the salt of the earth," we do no disservice to the Savior's message if we draw further illustrations from it. Thus:

II.  As salt serves as a preservative in the curing of such things as pork, so believers should contribute to preserving the moral fiber in a nation.

A.  Its preservative qualities are among the lesser known values of salt.

1.  I recall that down on the farm before the wondrous "sugar cure" treatment for preserving pork came along, everyone in my community used salt for that purpose; thus some still make references to "salt pork."

2.  Farmers feed salt to cattle by strategically placing it in pastures for them to ingest by licking the mineral in the form of a solid block, but they also use it to help preserve hay for cattle while it is in storage.

B.  We often remark with sadness regarding the "moral decay" and the "rottenness" in our world today.

C.  As the salt of the earth, perhaps we are somewhat at fault.

1.  To protect ourselves from the world's deadening influence, maybe we have been somewhat justly accused of being "isolationists."

2.  If we never associate with sinners, it is certain that we will never win them to Christ.

3.  Our engagement with them socially, in attendance at appropriate entertainment events, in business, and in the political arena should have a preserving influence in our world.

4.  Paul declared, "For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way" (2 Thess. 2:7).

a.  The Restrainer in this case is certainly the Lord.

b.  He likely intended, however, that His followers should assist Him in "holding back" the coming flood of evil as we serve mankind in being the salt of the earth.

III.  As salt melts ice in such processes as making homemade ice cream, so the conduct of believers should be of such a nature as to assist in melting the hard hearts of sinners in preparing them for repentance.

A.  When mixed with ice, salt produces a solution that has a lower freezing point than that of water.

1.  Surrounding the metal container holding the liquid ice cream mixture, the salt-water speeds up the ice cream freezing process.

2.  The mixture in the container, then, is most palatable when frozen solid.

B.  One of the great desires of the Lord is that the hard, cold hearts of sinners be warmed and melted.

1.  Speaking for the Lord, Isaiah wrote, "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isa. 57:15).

2.  Paul declared that godly sorrow leads to genuine repentance (2 Cor. 7:10).

C.  God help us to find ways of warming and softening the cold and hard hearts of unbelievers in our daily association with them.

IV.  As salt has antiseptic or germ-killing qualities, so the influence of believers should serve to curb sin in the lives of unbelievers and the society that surrounds them.

A.  The antiseptic qualities of salt make it useful as a mouthwash and for gargling in the throat under certain conditions.

B.  Jesus came into the world not only to heal the bodies of the sick but also to treat their spiritual illnesses.

1.  Remarking on the purposes of the Father in sending Him to earth, Jesus said, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted" (Isa. 61:1).

2.  It was to those suffering discouragement and even depression because of their sin-sickness in this world that He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).

C.  Surely as the salt of the earth, we have qualities that will help heal broken hearts and broken homes in this world of untold misery; let us freely dispense ourselves as a healing medicine to those within our realm of influence.

V.  As salt is a basic necessity to the health and well-being of the human body, so believers make a necessary contribution to the spiritual well-being of those about them.

A.  Cells of the human body must have salt to live and function on this earth.

1.  That blood, sweat, and tears are salty demonstrates this fact.

2.  Salt constitutes 0.9% of the cells of each person's blood and body.

3.  There is reason, then, for doctors to use a saline solution in conjunction with the injection of medicines into a patient's body.

B.  Though God is just and will not forever continue to show patience toward those who persist stubbornly in their sins, He will show mercy as long as possible.

1.  Concerning one of the most sinful nations of history, He declared He would yet show mercy for a time, explaining that "the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Gen. 15:16).

2.  Still, regarding the apostate king Saul, He no doubt shocked Samuel with a rebuke for his continuing to pray for the rejected king (1 Sam. 16:1).

C.  At the present, however, we still have opportunity to share the grace that God has worked in us, serving as life-sustaining elements to both individuals and nations in this world.

Concl.  Thus, for the reasons implied in our Lord's great golden text, "You are the salt of the earth," we must maintain our Christian influence in the world; remember that:

1.  As salt increases people's eating pleasure when it is used on food, so believers should make it possible for unbelievers about them to find more meaning in life.

2.  As salt serves as a preservative in the curing of such things as pork, so believers should contribute to preserving the moral fiber in a nation.

3.  As salt melts ice in such processes as making homemade ice cream, so the conduct of believers should be of such a nature as to assist in melting the hard hearts of sinners in preparing them for repentance.

4.  As salt has antiseptic or germ-killing qualities, so the influence of believers should serve to curb sin in the lives of unbelievers and the society that surrounds them.

5.  As salt is a basic necessity to the health and well-being of the human body, so believers make a necessary contribution to the spiritual well-being of those about them.

6.  By losing ourselves as salt loses its identity when it dissolves in the various processes of being used, so let us fulfill our purpose in becoming what the Lord said we are.

    In summary then, the analogical sermon makes a comparison or a contrast between two things or two people, in order to convey spiritual truths to the congregation. This kind of message is particularly appropriate and effective when the Scripture text is definitely typological. The sermon's proposition condenses the entire message into a single sentence and contains one key word that will be the focus of each of the sermon's main points. There are three possible types of propositions from which the preacher may choose--ones showing the listeners how to obtain something of value to them, those proclaiming a duty the congregation has, and the ones informing the people of an ability that is theirs for the taking.

Selected Bibliography


    Hamilton, Donald L. Homiletical Handbook. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992.

    Perry, Lloyd M. A Manual for Biblical Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965.

            . Biblical Preaching for Today's World. Chicago: Moody Press, 1973.

    York, Hershael W., and Bert Decker. Preaching with Bold Assurance. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003.

About the Author

    Dr. Charles Harris is a recently retired Profes­sor of Bible and Pastoral Ministries as well as Chairman of the Division of Church Ministries at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. He was associated with the college for thirty-eight years.

    In addition to his career as an educator, Dr. Harris is also an author. His writings have appeared in the Sunday School Counselor, God's Word for Today, and the Adult Teacher. Among his works are three books--What's Ahead, Proofs of Christianity, and Under the Glass: An Analysis of Church Structure--as well as a commentary on the Book of Second Corinthians in the Complete Biblical Library. He was a contributing author of Power Encounter: A Pentecostal Perspective.

    Dr. Harris holds a bachelor's degree in Bible, a master's degree in counseling, and a doctorate in education.


[1]Lloyd Perry, A Manual for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965), 83.

[2]Hershael W. York and Bert Decker, Preaching with Bold Assurance (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 140.

[3]Lloyd Perry, Biblical Preaching for Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973), 47.

[4]Donald L. Hamilton, Homiletical Handbook (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 44.

[5]Perry, Biblical Preaching for Today, 48

[6]Ibid.

[7]Perry, Manual for Biblical Preaching, 85.

[8]Hamilton, Homiletical Handbook, 51.

[9]World Book Encyclopedia, 1963 ed., s.v. "Salt," by George L. Bush.

[10]Perry, Manual for Biblical Preaching, 85.