What Would Haddon Robinson Do?

Haddon Robinson

As we explored that question which so has our interest…

Will You Continue to Bore People With the Bible?

Paula began to open our eyes to a way you could rethink and change.

She showed us how Haddon Robinson, one of your more noted preachers back in the day appeared to be open to thinking more broadly.

Haddon Robinson has used the classroom and printed page to exert a profound influence on the American pulpit during the past 25 years. His text Biblical Preaching (Baker) is the most widely-used preaching textbook of the last quarter century, helping to prepare thousands of young preachers to develop “Big Idea” sermons. (In the March-April 2010 Preaching, the book was cited as the most influential preaching book of the past 25 years.)

As a professor of preaching at three prominent evangelical seminaries, Robinson further influenced many of those who now teach preaching in colleges and seminaries. Michael Milton writes, “Arguably the greatest preacher in North America, Dr. Robinson has influenced pulpits all over America and through his ministry at Gordon-Conwell and Denver Seminary before that.”

The 25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years, By Michael Duduit, Preaching.com

Look at what Robinson said in an interview which came out in 1997, the very same year in which Robert McKee first published his book, Story

The most extensive Bible genre is story, people doing things. We have to ask, Why does the Bible give us so much narrative? Why didn’t God just come right out and say what he meant and not beat around the bush with stories? If I were God and were going to give something that would last until the end of time, I would have said, “Here are five principles about my will.” But he doesn’t do that.

Therefore it’s dangerous to go into a narrative and say, “Here are three things we learn about the providence of God.” That’s not the way the biblical writers chose to handle it. If we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, we have to consider the methods used to proclaim God’s message.

The Heresy of Application: An interview with Haddon Robinson, Christianity Today, Fall 1997

Robinson revealed in the interview that he did not understand story from the inside out. And that makes sense, since McKee was just publishing his work. But, Paula helped us see that it looks like over time he stayed ignorant of it, as he revealed in his famous preaching book, Biblical Preaching

But, as you can see in his book, he was still open to thinking more broadly…

In the final analysis there is no such thing as “a sermon form.” God’s truth would be better served if we didn’t think about preaching a sermon at all. When we have arrived at what we believe is the meaning of a passage and have thought about the needs and questions of our audience, then the question is, What is the best way for this idea to be developed? The shoe must not tell the foot how to grow; therefore, ideas and purposes should be allowed to take their own shape in your mind. To test a form you should ask at least two questions: (1) Does this development com­municate what the passage teaches? (2) Will it accomplish my purpose with this audience? If your development communicates your message, by all means use it; if it gets in the way of your message, then devise a form more in keeping with the idea and purpose of the Scriptures and the needs of your hearers.

Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching

See that? He would have looked into McKee.

So, we want to know if you will too.

What does the person lost in Manhattan really need? It is tempting to respond, “Directions!” But think for a moment. If you give him excellent directions and he gets from point A to point B, he will get lost again as soon as he tries to get to point C. What he needs is a helicopter view of New York City in his head. If you have the big picture, you are able to orient yourself and move in the right direction.

This is what we all need every Sunday— the helicopter view of life that only the grandstory of redemption can give. Preaching must pull us out of our confusing little corners and enable us to see the grand vista of life. Only this kind of “whole story” preaching can enable us to orient ourselves in every new situation. Only God’s Story can confront the blindness and claustrophobia that continually weaken our functional spirituality.

A Community of Counselors: The Fruit of Good Preaching, By Paul David Tripp, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Winter 2003)

I am amused when people say that preaching in the 21st century is dead: “We live among a generation raised on television and movies; they will not tolerate preaching these days.” No, what they will not stomach is preaching that is boring. So what do movies possess that the average Sunday message does not? Story. Not stories as in illustrations, but story.

Robert McKee is a leading expert on film screenwriting. He is famous for his seminars on scriptwriting. I appreciate his definition of story: “The creative demonstration of truth.” McKee states, “Master storytellers never explain. They do the hard, painfully creative thing — they dramatize. Audiences are rarely interested and certainly never convinced when forced to listen to the discussion of ideas.”

For me, the creative demonstration of truth — God’s truth — is usually how I summarize outstanding preaching. I believe we are living in the age of story. People are responsive to messages in story form.

Telling the Story for 21st-century Listeners, By Graham Johnston, Enrichment Journal

And your Mohler Man sure has our attention…

In former days, those days marked by the dominance of cultural Christianity, the ministry could be confused as a profession. No such confusion is possible now. The authentic Christian ministry constitutes a counterrevolutionary insurgency on behalf of the Gospel, an insurrection against principalities and powers, a redemptive rescue mission in the midst of late modernity.

What could be more important than the education and preparation of these insurgents and counterrevolutionaries? What could be more important than theological education?

At the theological seminary the twig is bent, the trajectory is set, the minister is molded, the preacher is formed, and the missionary is equipped.

The theological seminary is Ground Zero of the church’s future, and not just on its campus but everywhere its graduates will take their message, ministry, and influence.


This is deadly serious business, and they know it. What shows up in the classroom shows up in the pulpit, and fast.

Faith on Earth — The Urgent Mission of Theological Education, by Albert Mohler, AlbertMohler.com, October 2, 2014

So, will your theological seminaries change their way of seeing?

Because we came to see that if you begin to see your Bible through the lens of story, then your focus will shift from yourself to your God, who is the Active Protagonist in the story. That’s just the way it works. Story shines the spotlight on the core character. 

And as we saw, it sure doesn’t look like he wants you to keep hanging out in that minimalist corner.