Thursday, March 24, 2011

Preaching Truism (3)

I am grateful for the comments posted on the last two truisms and I look forward to responding as this little series progresses. Needless to say I have big picture of what preaching at its best, is meant to be: " a biblical speaking/listening/seeing/doing event that God empowers to lead and form Christ-shaped people and communities" (from 360degree Leadership). When you consider preaching's spiritual importance within worship these first two truisms call for humility....humility. That's certainly how I feel.

And what is next? 3. Most preachers fall into one preferred pattern of preparation and delivery. I say "fall into" not because we don't work hard ( so often we do) but because, commonly, once preachers have found a pattern that "works" they stick with it...on and on. So, the first steps of practicing preaching often set the tone for a lifetime. A seminary student who had already been preaching for five years said to me at the beginning of class: " I hope you don't spoil my preaching. I have a way of doing it that really works well!"

Now, in busy pastoral lives it is understandable that preachers should develop efficient methods to produce sermons. And, God certainly blesses faithful ministry. But, the extraordinary range of teaching in Scripture, the promise of Holy Spirit empowering, and the breadth of listeners' experiences, challenges sameness delivered by sermon "sausages." Turn the gospel pages and you never know how Jesus is going to teach next! Living in God's word, and hearing what he is saying to preachers for their sakes and their hearers, exposes preachers to fresh experiences each week which need to be shared afresh.

This is not a plea for gimmicks and communication techniques (please, no)! Rather, this truism challenges me as a preacher preparing my next sermon to recognize that I cannot be sure how it might begin or end, how it might be lit up by testimony and story, how it might counter popular culture, how it belongs within gathered worship, and how it might be used by God to transform me and others. With openness to the Holy Spirit I should be ready to bring fresh good news. Another student said to me that he had an uncle who was a preacher who warned about bringing "stale bread" to the pulpit. That old saw: "Ten thousand thousand are their texts, but all their sermons are one" remains a serious warning! We need to develop good habits of exegesis, interpretation and sermon design, but also openness to where God's lively word may take us today. Do you agree?


Anonymous said...

To be able to be open to different approaches (which is delightful to both the preacher and the audience) requires some education of the audience itself. Tragically, some audiences have arrived at the mistaken conclusion that the spiritual depth of the message is determined by the pattern. Thus, a sermon in a more exegetical format is deemed to be filled with spiritual depth and insight; whereas a first person sermon or a sermon filled with narrative is often deemed to be shallow, empty and hallow. (In those times, I'm not sure that I want the feedback of the church to respond to an earlier blog!) Thus if we are going to stretch ourselves as preachers, we must find creative ways to educate the church. Otherwise, they will "shut down" and "tune out"; which in the end, helps noone. Agree? Disagree Doc?

Sue Barker said...

Isn't it wonderful how one reads a friend's blog and know that it will help in preparing the next sermon! Thank you Michael