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.
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?
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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I have been with a small rural church for six years. Preaching is frustrating and difficult. The folks are nearly all related in a small self-focussed group. They work an hour away from their community and don’t often connect even with neighbors. I live an hour away from the church. They have all attended this church since 1953. They don’t like change, they don’t like new and they like to hear the same OT stories over and over interspersed with stories about uncle Joe and aunt Sally who died ten years ago. They don’t want to hear about modern theological research. I love them but I just resigned and it hurts. I hoped to awaken a spirit in them…but I failed. I have a growing ministry in the county jails that they absolutely don’t want to hear about. They don’t like to hear about hungry and miserable Native Americans in their community or old folks stuck on the farm. (sigh)
Andrea, your story is far too common in these days and times. Even the greatest vision-casters are unable to light a fire when they’re inundated with a monsoon of self-absorbed church members.
Jesus addressed this issue directly when he sent out the seventy … if no one received them and their message they were to leave and tap the dust off their feet. It’s good advice. Stop beating yourself up. Even Jesus ended up on a cross. Turn your face toward the next ministry and, if I may add, be more careful about the ministry you choose to invest yourself in.
We did a video for Church-Talk on interviewing a church before you’re called (http://churchtalk.tv/interviewing-the-church/). It might be a good place to start.