I believe that one’s preaching should always be evolving and adapting to the needs expressed through our culture.  We live in a time when the culture says our preaching is irrelevant.  That can’t be allowed to continue.

Preaching At People

What is the image of the preaching in your church?  Is it a lecture?  Do people feel “preached at?”  Does it connect the life and faith of people in their every day experience?

When we say we preach at someone, it is not good news.  The 20th century had a lot of what people called “hell fire and brimstone.”  Some even had a strange attachment to having the hell scared out of them.  But those days seem largely behind us.

Indeed, the pendulum often swings hard from one direction to the other.  There are those who consider contemporary preaching to be rather inane.  “I’m okay, you’re okay.  Jesus loves you.  Jesus blesses you.  Go do whatever you please.”  Really, what should 21st century preaching look like?

For those of us in The Effective Church Group, we often get a lot of push back from pastors when we say that sermon preparation for small and medium size churches shouldn’t take more than one to two hours per week.  We say this largely because we feel that contemporary pastors in those size churches need to think and act like a church planter.  People are staying away from church in droves.  This demands our full attention.  But I’d like to add another way in which I believe this approach to preaching can be to everyone’s benefit.

My wife is in the business world.  She says that the rule of thumb for public speaking is 3:1.  Three minutes of preparation for one minute of presentation.  So a twenty minute sermon should take 60 minutes to prepare by this logic.  Why do preachers insist on lengthy preparation time for their messages?  Is it easier to sit in our offices with reference materials than to go out and connect people to Jesus?

Here’s the deal.  I really don’t believe people want to hear all of our intricately designed sermons of in-depth analysis about the Bible.  More importantly, I don’t believe it is helpful.

Preaching is, and always has been, an intersection of life and faith in a community context.  If we really own this, preaching is a whole lot more fun and rewarding for everyone involved.  How you do this is up to the context.  That is the point.  Preaching is indigenous and incarnational.  It comes from engaging and dwelling in a certain community.

There are all sorts of models these days.  Some preachers have a team of people.  That’s cool.  But I am more excited about a preaching style that may take only a couple hours to collate, but it is really based on one’s 24/7 experience of how the pastor interacts with the community, especially those who are not connected to Jesus.  Obviously, one doesn’t share the stories of others without their permission.  But a called and creative preacher can appropriately weave together a week’s worth of life and faith to share that in a way that blesses people and equips them for what daily life might look like in the week to come.

I go to a particular coffee shop on Friday mornings.  There is a group that meets there.  They immediately ask me what the topic of the sermon is for this week.  And away we go.  They expect me to take their comments seriously.  They expect me to anonymously share their insights.  It is no longer my sermon.  It belongs to the community.  And that it powerful.

In a day when the two critiques of church are that of being hypocrites and irrelevant, preaching must be relevant.  Try taking less of your sermon preparation from books and more from interacting with the lives of those who may not go to church.  Then preach as to how the Gospel of Jesus intersects the lives of the people you meet.

What about you?  How do you see sermon preparation these days?  How can the church do a better job of sharing the best and most relevant story ever?  Leave your comments below.

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