Sermon Genres and Forms (Teresa Fry Brown, “Embodying the Word”)

In any discussion of preaching, it’s useful to have some vocabulary for describing different forms, types, styles or genres of sermons. In Delivering the Sermon: Voice, Body, and Animation in Proclamation (Fortress Press, 2008), Teresa L. Fry Brown offers this (in her words) “cursory” list in her chapter “Embodying the Word”:

  1. Topical — truth or importance of a topic or theme; the preacher allows logical points to control the sequence of the sermon.
  2. Textual — follows the parts, divisions, pericopes, or sequences of thought in the text
  3. Expository — addresses an extended passage of Scripture, centering attention on one emphasis in the passage–a teaching, insight, promise, hope, warning, character, experience, meaning, prophecy, virtue, key word
  4. Narrative — basic story elements of character, plot, setting, and movement
  5. Dialectical — thesis (what God is doing in the text), antithesis (counterpoint of real-life issue), synthesis (juxtaposition of thesis and antithesis)
  6. Polar opposites — comparative and contrasting points of view, characters, events
  7. Wesley quadrilateral — consideration of Scripture, tradition, reason, experience
  8. Rhetorical — convince hearers by application of reasoning, interogatories
  9. Variations — dialogue, drama, news reports, musical, multimedia

Fry Brown notes that several sermon genres may be combined in one sermon. The guiding principle for choosing sermon forms (or combinations) are “what works best for the congregation’s receipt of information” and the “preacher’s ability to embody the text in the particular form” (p. 65-66).

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