[文摘] The Problem of Preaching

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Source Link: The Problem of Preaching

Instead of probing the issue assuming a problem-solving attitude, this article offers a fresh perspective, regarding the act of preaching a collaborative art between the preacher and the congregation.

We learn in it about the expectations the congregation has for the preacher, as a “Lilly-endowed study of more than 10,000 Christian laypeople” has revealed their following views:

  • They want inspiration for spiritual growth
  • They want spiritual guidance for their current life and their engagement with societal issues.
  • They want seriously biblical stuff rather than counsels that are common to self-help books and bestsellers.
  • They expect a long-lasting impact from the preaching to motivate their continual presence and support for the church.
  • They want the sermon to have ear-catching and difference-making elements

A Manhattan congregation “known for its great preaching”, which the author has personally investigated, furthermore confirms the relevancy of the aforementioned public/lay opinions concerning pastoral preaching:

  • « We want a sermon that brings together the world of the Bible and our world today. »
  • « We need a new and relevant interpretation of the old, old story. »
  • « I love it when my pastor studies the Bible and finds kernels of truth I would never see for myself. »
  • « We do not want a sermon that skirts current issues. Jesus didn’t do that. At our church, we sit on the edge of our seats every week because our preachers connect the Word of God with the important news of the day and the real world we live in. »

On the other hand, the congregation should allow time and give support to their regular preachers, as most of them are genuinely devoted to their craft, striving to deliver transformative sermons week after week.

Also, relevant message on the pulpit does not come by itself. Besides study of the sacred text and current issues, it requires conversation and dialogue between the pastor and the congregation. Despite the fact that 78 percent of them have never discussed a sermon with their preacher, there are indeed ways the preacher can collaborate on the sermon with the community of faith, such as (though this should take amoeboid forms rather than being prescribed as such):

  • Some pastors distribute comment cards to the congregation, inviting feedback immediately after a message is delivered.
  • Discuss the weekly text with a group of laypeople as a way to prepare for the coming week’s sermon.
  • A wise congregational president or church council will schedule regular preaching retreats on the pastor’s calendar, arranging for a supply preacher and an on-call pastoral care provider.
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