I USED TO THINK of preaching as science. Take the text into the lab, dissect it, and carve it into three points and an application. Above all, make points. NOW I THINK of preaching more as art. The goal isn't to make points but to arrive at a point (destination). The message, like Christian discipleship itself, is a journey -- informed by the text, shaped by the text. Instead of seeing myself as the one who explains the Bible to everyone, I see myself as a leader in the journey who escorts people into the messy, marvelous, unbelievable, life-altering world of scripture. In some ways, it's harder. (The exegetical and hermeneutical work still has to be done on the front end!) But it seems to correspond more to scripture, for the Bible doesn't often come in nifty little sections of points. It immerses us into a world shaped by the work of God in human lives. It is Jesus-formed. The preaching that reaches deep inside me and rattles my bones is not usually very easy to outline--though that certainly doesn't mean it isn't carefully crafted. Often, it has seemed to me, the other kind of preaching tends to turn people into Bible Wonks who study scripture a lot but don't catch the overarching themes of scripture. In their search for "answers," they wind up with a reduced world. So preaching is an art. There is a place to launch the journey, there are turns and twists, there are mountains and valleys, and there is a destination. (In old classical homiletic theory that's the "thesis" or the "focus.") Disclaimer: this isn't the only way to view preaching. It's where I am on my understanding. It's more narrative/story than encyclopedia, more poetry than prose, more art than science. Take this with a grain of salt. I think I know more about good guacamole and about how to throw a good two-seam fastball than about good preaching.