Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Fallen Condition Focus

“The Fallen Condition Focus And The Purpose Of The Sermon” by Bryan Chapell; Chancellor and Professor of Preaching at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. From; the online publication of Preaching magazine. Available at

     Dr Chapell’s article focuses on what he refers to as the Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) in preaching. In short; Chapell believes what the sermon is to focus on is what the text of Scripture is saying to the original recipients, and how that original context is now applicable to a modern hearer.
     Chapell begins by asking the questions of where, to whom, and why was the original manuscripts written. By answering these questions at the outset, one can exegete the passage in such a way as to help focus on the ramification to the original audience, and allow Holy Spirit guided direction to make a connection with his own flock in today’s culture.

     Until the preacher is aware of why the passage was written, he will fail to connect to the true content of the original author’s message. It is very interesting that Chapell chooses to use the word “guess” in his article. To borrow a phrase from Tony Guthrie, Professor of Preaching at Luther Rice Seminary, we do not have to use “guessegeses” in our study. God has made His purposes clear in the text, if we will use the Fallen Condition Focus as a methodology for determining that purpose. Chapell defines the concept of a Fallen Condition Focus as, “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those for or by whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage to manifest God's glory in his people.” In other words, no text of Scripture was written solely for the purposes of the past hearers, but for the needs and sanctification of any listener in any age. Or, put another way, the Fallen Condition Focus is the intention of the Holy Spirit to provide inspired and authoritative Scripture for each age of the church.

     Therefore, Chapell argues that if we do not find the Fallen Condition Focus of the passage, we will not have a true understanding of the passage, even if we can diagram the Greek, or parse the Hebrew, or know many interesting facts about the jewels on the High Priest’s breastplate. These linguistic skills and interesting facts will become secondary when we deliver the Holy Spirit's true intention for inspiring the autographs and His true intention for the modern audience to hear the message He intended.

     As Chapell puts it, a sermon on “prayerless patterns in society” is much less interesting than a sermon on "why we struggle to pray when family stresses make prayer most necessary”—a sermon that this reviewer would love to hear. The generic, bland message gives the audience little reason to tune in. However; specificity tends to breed interest in the subject matter. Chapell lists the following three questions as foundational in determining the Fallen Condition Focus:

1. What does the text say?
2. What concern(s) did the text address (in its context)?
3. What do listeners spiritually share in common with those for (or about) whom it was written or the one by whom it was written?

Answering these three questions will guide the preacher to answer the most important question of the Fallen Condition Focus: “So what?” If the audience sits with crossed arms and scowling faces asking at the end of the message, “So what?” then the preacher has failed to convey the message of the Scripture. They might be able to recite the treasures that Achan stole from Jericho; but “so what?” Does that knowledge affect their Monday reality of a doctor’s appointment? Most likely it does not.

     The article itself was well written in every way. As stated previously, it was very similar to the Homiletical Bridge concept. It was written with just a touch of humor that helped keep it attentive, and was very practice in both application and approach. While not as academic it certainly was helpful in gathering an understanding of preaching from the standpoint of a Christocentric rather than anthropocentric view. Chapell’s Fallen Condition Focus is a wonderful tool that should be readily added to myany pastoral toolbox.

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