Monday, March 26, 2012

A Week On Preaching

Last spring, I was faced with some serious challenges from within the church I pastor that forced me to evaluate my understanding of the role and power of preaching. I was told by the pastoral relations committee of my church that the sermons were to be no more than 20 minutes long, and it was made clear that I could toe the line, or else. I agreed to hold that line (for awhile), but I made clear that we needed to revisit the subject once and for all. At first it wasn’t dealt with. The agreed upon date to revisit the subject came and went, and to my shame I didn’t force us all back to the table. After speaking to someone with legal training and being told that there was breach of contract on the pastoral relations committee side for not reconvening as agreed, I just blew off the agreement. It was sinful of me, I should have made us all come back to the table to finish the process properly (yes, pastors can sin too- I confessed this and repented of it to the pastoral relations committee last fall, and I continue to admit it now). However, last fall, the subject was re-opened, dealt with properly, and put to bed with the pastoral relationship committee. I believe we are past it forever. 

Here on the anniversary of that ugliness, I would like to reflect on some of the things that I learned as a result, because while it was a rough time, it really forced me to think about preaching carefully and critically and it made my understanding of the importance of preaching grow. I came to realize that preaching is a live or die issue for me. It's an issue that would limit my tenure if unresolved (at First Baptist Medfield or any other church I serve).

Why? Why is this a hill I was ready to die on, and would still be ready to die on?

Because I believe that preaching shapes how effective a pastor is, because it is through the preaching of the word that God speaks. The ministry of the Word, preaching and teaching of the Gospel, is the apex of the service, if we minimize the preaching of the Gospel, if we make it something we tolerate rather than love and elevate, we tell something to the church, and the world around about what we think of what God has to say. The more I thought about it and read last summer and fall, the firmer my convictions became that church that grow and thrive, not just in size, but also in depth and vibrancy, are churches that take time to really examine the Word of God, feast on it, and are shaped by it.
With this said, I would like to structure what I have to say on preaching in this way. Tuesday I will lay out the theology of preaching that under-girds my approach to the pulpit. Wednesday, I will speak to some of the general arguments that I have heard about why we need the sermon to be no more than 20 minutes (both in and out of my church). Thursday, I will speak about some practical considerations in regards to preaching in a postmodern world. Friday, I will walk through what I will call closing considerations. I hope that this is helpful to all. 

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