I am prepared for my sermon preparation today. Yesterday I bought a new jar of ground
coffee. My coffee machine is warming up. My Bible is open and ready. The books I will use to help me are within reach. My procrastination levels have diminished (although this bloggerel may disqualify that claim). As soon as the coffee is with me, thundersermons ho!
Hmmm. That description (thundersermons) grates with me a bit. It was intended to be a play on the classicly silly Thundercats from my childhood days, but it has left me feeling uneasy. Let me try to explain.
I am not (I don’t think) a hellfire and brimstone preacher. I very rarely raise my voice. I only thump the pulpit for illustrative effect. The ‘thundersermon’ label conjours up all sorts of memories of frightening men (they were all men) who would harangue the congregation into submission. If they didn’t leave the pulpit perspiring (and us shaking) they had not succeeded.
I prefer to let the Bible speak for itself. It sometimes says some very uncomfortable things (we are working our way through 1 Corinthians at the moment and Paul wrote some VERY uncomfortable things), but that’s no reason for the preacher to make people uncomfortable. It often says challenging things, but that it no reason why listening to the preacher has to be a challenge. It usually says profound things, but that’s no reason for the preacher to plumb the depths of emotion in order to convey the truth.
I have been blessed immensely by our recent morning series on prayer. Now that may sound arrogant, since I have been the preacher, but it’s not meant to be. In the preparing and in the preaching I have found God speaking to me, prompting me, nudging me and occasionally giving me a kick up the rear about my own prayer life, expectations, practice and teaching. It has broadened my appreciation of prayer and has increased my awareness of my need to pray in order to keep close to Jesus. At times I have found myself quite moved. I have always tried to be honest (even when that’s difficult). I have tried to be winsome (a characteristic encouraged by a tutor at Spurgeon’s College after hearing me preach). But most of all I have tried to be me, so that God can speak clearly to me and (I hope) through me.
There’s recently been some bloggaging on other sites that have generated some excitement about preaching styles. I have surveyed this from a discreet distance, mainly because I have been unsure of myself. I am uncomfortable about those who say that we should have a particular style and disparage others. I am unhappy with those who say that some forms of preaching are better than others. I don’t agree with those who say that it is outdated and irrelevant as a way of communicating truth.
And the reason why I am feeling that is because most of those approaches seem to exclude the gracious, powerful, gentle, challenging, moving, uncomfortable, blessing, exciting, personal, joyful involvement of God’s Spirit in all of this. Yes, there are other ways of communicating truth and we should definitely be using them too. Yes, there are some people whose sermons are technically better than others. Yes, there are common styles to some of the more ‘successful’ preachers (don’t get me started on success!). But God is not bothered by that. The one who spoke through a donkey speaks through me.
The least technically correct and most poorly delivered sermon I have ever preached resulted in four people becoming Christians. I KNOW it wasn’t that I was a good preacher. I KNOW it wasn’t that I used an engaging style. I KNOW that it wasn’t contemporary. I KNOW it was poor (how can you preach about the cross of Jesus without once mentioning God’s love??!!). But God spoke. That is the mystery, privilege and joy of preaching.
Be blessed. Be a blessing.
A boy was watching his father, a pastor, write a sermon on his computer.
“How do you know what to say?” he asked.
“God tells me,” replied his father benevolently.
“Oh,” said the boy, thoughtfully, “so… why do you keep deleting bits?”