Emotionally Healthy Discipleship impacts preaching in multiple ways. Over a 24-year period, I organized these learnings around a series of ten questions that I ask myself, and others, when preaching a message.
In last week’s podcast I introduced the first five questions:
1. Am I preaching for Jesus out of a life of being with him?
2. Am I present to myself and to the people in the room?
3. Am I allowing the text to intersect with my family of origin and culture?
4. Am I preaching out of my vulnerability and weakness?
5. Am I allowing the text to transform me?
This week, I explore the final five, and make a few concluding suggestions to make your long-term preaching experience rich, full, and enjoyable. Questions six through ten are:
6. Am I surrendering to Christ’s process of birth, death and resurrection?
The sermon preparation process follows, I find, the life of Jesus. We get a birth, i.e. an initial excitement about a revelation from Scripture. “This is incredible!” we may say to ourselves. As we work on the message, however, we enter a death stage where we find ourselves lost in content and possible directions to go. We then wonder, “Oh, no! This is a disaster.” As we stay with God, however, prayerfully listening and waiting, he brings the message together in type of resurrection (Hopefully before we stand up and preach)!
7. Am I making time to think through clear, specific applications?
It is easy to spend a great deal of time in study, prayer, the structure of the message, and fail to dedicate a sufficient amount of time to make clear, pointed applications. This is hard work and not something that can be done in a few minutes on the evening prior to delivery. Different age groups, life situations, generations, levels of maturity – to name a few – need to be carefully considered.
8. Am I thinking through the complexities and nuances of my topic and audience?
It is easy to be flippant about the complexities and nuances of real life when preaching because of the time it takes to think about them. For example, how do we preach forgiveness to an audience that includes people abused as children? How do you preach joy to people carrying traumatic grief? How do two, full-time, working parents with small children practice silence and the Daily Office? How do retirees do Sabbath?
9. Am I doing exegesis in community?
My perspective, experience in life, and even my understanding of a particular text all come bound up with all of my limitations. Thus, whenever possible, I need the input of at least one or two other people in my process to give me other perspectives.
10. Am I connecting the message to people’s long-term formation?
Preaching is an enormous gift in the church. But it also has limits. Crafting related spiritual formation experiences for your people (e.g. offering a day alone with God, workshops to introduce a relationship skill when preaching on love) are as critical as the message itself as we labor for the long-term transformation in our people (Gal. 4:19).
I conclude the podcast by talking about team preaching, the need for sabbaticals and the gift of getting ideas from other preachers along the way.
Blessings to you and happy preaching!