To Deduct or Induct…That is the Question

21 Dec

Don’t worry, I have no idea what the title means either.

I do know I want to talk about deductive versus inductive preaching. Actually, I just want to share an opinion. (And we both know how much those are worth.)

For the sake of argument, and since I’m the one doing the writing I get to make the rules, deductive preaching is where you tell people what you are going to tell them, then you tell them. In honor of those visual learners out there:


Inductive preaching on the other hand, is where you design the sermon to lead the people to the point you want to make. It might look like this…


Now anybody who knows me, knows I care basically diddly squat about outlines. I think outlines are so overblown…(since I’m spouting off opinions, I might as well keep going)outlines should serve the sermon, not the other way around. An outline should function like a slingshot – I put the point of the sermon in there, and the outline swings it home.

So I’m not talking about a particular style of outline here, I’m talking about a particular approach to a passage.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand, I think deductive preaching has its place.

There are times when you definitely need to say this is what the passage says, this is what the passage means, and this is what you need to do.

I do have a problem though with an entirely deductive approach to preaching for a couple of reasons.

One being, I think what it can do – over a period of time – is train people not to think. I get up behind the pulpit, I tell you what I learned, I tell you what you need to do, and what happens? If I do this over and over, you can develop a habit of not wrestling with the text yourself.

It’s like with my kids.

If I always teach them by saying this is what is true, this is what you need to believe, this is what you need to do and don’t engage them, don’t force them to struggle, don’t help them learn the process of coming to a conclusion for themselves, then I’m doing them a disservice.

I need to do that sometimes, but probably not all the time.

To me, that’s what is beautiful about a more inductive approach. I want active listeners – I want people to have to think and wrestle with the text to get the point. When I preach an inductive message, my goal is to take you on a short tour through my study process, so that by the end of the message, you and I, we can arrive at the point of the passage together.

I read a book on preaching a year or so ago, called As One Without Authority. Obviously, the title is a problem.

His point though was interesting, at least to think about. It was that our methodology of preaching should match our theology of preaching.

If I believe God’s Word is the final authority in people’s lives – then the method through which I deliver that message – should reflect that. In other words, I might say I believe the Bible is the final authority in people’s lives and then preach a message in a way that seems to say something different.

What I think an inductive approach does is shine the spotlight on the passage. What I’m wondering, and I’m just wondering here, is if what a deductive approach can do, if we’re not careful, is shine the spotlight on the preacher.

It can easily become me telling you what to do, rather than me telling you what God through the text is telling you to do.

Anyway, just thinking…

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