Sticky Sermons: Evolution of "The Stickiness Factor"

"Stickiness," a simple children's word, moved into adult discourse when it was included among the factors that cause ideas to spread in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

According to Gladwell, "The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes" (p. 25).

The next big move for "stickiness" came when Chip and Dan Heath, brothers who are university professors, wrote Made to Stick. They picked up Gladwell's concept of "The Stickiness Factor" and took it further. They said their objective was to, "[I]dentify the traits that make ideas sticky, a subject that was beyond the scope of Gladwell's book" (p. 13).

The word was "baptized" when Larry Osborne, lead pastor of North Coast Church in California, brought "sticky" to the church. He wrote two books taking full advantage of the new buzzword: Sticky Church and Sticky Teams.

Following their lead, I am aware that some sermons can be "sticky," while others seem to be written and delivered with a teflon coating!

Sermons, as I am describing them, are designed to be delivered in a particular context. Granted, some guys have gotten ahold of a bullhorn and tried to make a pulpit out of a street corner, but that is the exception rather than the rule. The street corner is no place for a either a sermon or a guy yelling at people he doesn't know.

The proper context is in the weekly gathering of Christian believers for the purpose of worshipping God. The sermon is just one component of that gathering. The others include greeting one another, praying together, singing in unison, offering support, reading the Scriptures, and sharing communion.

To imagine a sermon apart from that context is to act as if an appetizer is the sum total of a five-course meal. What this combination of components looks like, sounds like, and feels like in actual practice differs from place to place and denomination to denomination, but the gathering itself is standard Christian practice.

Because of the ongoing regularity with which preachers are delivering sermons, I want to identify what I perceive to be the elements of a "sticky sermon." After all, when you preach you want the ideas, beliefs, actions, and strategies that you are presenting to attach themselves to people's lives. In other words, you want them to stick.

In the next few posts, I'll use an acronym of the word "sticky" to identify which elements should be present in the content and communication of a sermon, delivered in its proper context, to help you make it stick.

See the finished series of "STICKY Sermons" posts by clicking here.


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