Whatever Approach You Take

January 7th, 2013

It is Saturday night and you are anticipating one of the most public and performatory parts of your work: preaching. In the pre-worship angst of preparing and waiting for Sunday to come, we find a grace-filled rhythm that culminates in standing in a pulpit to preach the Good News. Your schedule of preparation, and your weaving of scriptural text, liturgical season, and reading of your particular context are the tools of your trade.

You may plan four-week series responding to felt needs in the congregation. You may illustrate a six-week lectionary arc with a single, unifying image. You may craft sermons week-to-week as the Spirit speaks to you through Scripture. With whatever manner you prepare, design and deliver the sermon, I appeal to you to remember three things.

1. Preaching requires a relationship. This relationship is between you, God, the congregation, and the world! Each of these entities needs careful attention in your preparation. At times, careful listening to the heart of the congregation will give you insight into the words that will best proclaim a familiar story with newfound understanding. At other times, you are opening passageways for the listener to gain a vision and deepen a love for this incredible God who has come to us in Jesus Christ, who loves the world and seeks to reign among us—that is, in this world. Take time to listen to the folks inside and outside of your worship community. Take time to discover the incarnate Word in the chaos of daily existence.

2. The proclaimed Word of God is a living word! Pray over the scriptures and take time to see them in their context, as best as we can know it. Include clear biblical exegesis that will guide your listener into the heart of the inspired word. Whether you are using a lectionary text or a text of your choosing, the careful reading of the text will open you up to see and hear the word that speaks beyond your words.

3. Preach Christ! There are so many ways to do so: dance, drums, drama, story, film, conversation, and best-selling books. However, if what we preach is really the exegesis of a movie or the inspiration of a book, we have offered a meaningful message without addressing the “so what” of our faith. When cultural sources are well-linked with Scripture, they proclaim the Good News with fresh voices. Likewise, we can tell all we know about scripture and fail to make it connect to real life, here and now. Make the connection. This is our calling. This is faithful preaching.

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