Introduction: Holy Act

July 1st, 2016
This article is featured in the Does Preaching Matter? (Aug/Sep/Oct 2016) issue of Circuit Rider

Periodically and predictably, Circuit Rider’s theme is on preaching. Thoughtful and seasoned advice, inspiring challenges, elegant methods, and insightful theological, philosophical, and homiletical frameworks are proffered.

As it happens, it’s my turn as a nonpreacher layman on his way out the door after twenty years as Publisher of The United Methodist Church to write this introduction. My words are prelude for engaging articles by highly qualified and gifted pastors, proficient orators, esteemed teachers, and scholars. The articles that follow offer help, while I simply make a plea.

Dear Preachers
Please do all you can as often as you can to illumine the gospel in order to shape hearts, minds, and ways of living that honor God and our neighbors.

Try to say more about the essential idea or narrative of the day with fewer words, greater clarity about what matters most, and an ardent craving for your preaching to be obscured by the vivid presence of the Holy Spirit.

Preaching is a holy act in the midst of vital worship. Worship draws us into a cohesive identity as Jesus’s disciples and prepares us to scatter and serve. Communities of faith gather to praise God and be transformed so they in turn are fortified for assisting God’s ongoing work of transforming the world.

This work of the people is repeated in vastly diverse places and styles. Ubiquitous and familiar rhythms are imbued with extraordinary significance and purpose. The sermon is an important element in the repeating liturgy of praise, confession, proclamation, celebration of the sacraments, and sending.

Good preaching requires deep discernment, spiritual imagination, and artful practiced skills. A superior sermon is likely the result of intense acquaintance with the presence of God and the struggles and hopes of the people—delivered in a spirit of mind and heart that is deep-seated in scripture, tradition, and experience.

I hope these articles by wise and gracious servants help you. But no matter, I pray and plead that you’ll remain diligent and unceasing in your search for wisdom and tools to permeate your preaching with qualities and character worthy of this holy act.

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