HOW SHALL WE PREACH?… AN URGENT CONCERN

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

“Preaching is a vertical radical encounter between the living Lord and the bearer of the spoken word translated into meaning, charged with eternal destiny, borne by those who are willing to risk the scandal of the Gospel for those who have been brutalized by life’s uncertainties.” – Lovett

As an eventful process the message must remain under constant revision and never a finished product. That is why an authentic message develops as it is delivered and as new revelation and insights come. Preaching during the twenty-first century must always be vertical for God to encounter His creation through word and deed in a troubled world. In Mark 1: 14ff “Now after that John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”  After just over a half century of preaching I am convinced that the only Gospel that Jesus proclaimed was the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Gospel when radically preached will challenge and question systems, structures and values that oppress people and make for inhumane living.

The authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a sedative or pill for pain. It is not a mask to change one’s complexion or a sachet to improve one’s odor. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is dynamite…and at the same time life-saving and life-changing. In the tradition of Jesus may I strongly suggest that your preaching be Kingdom oriented. The Greek word for Kingdom is basilea = reign of God. We are preaching to people who are in captivity to  idols and values that oppose the Creator and make mockery of faith. A full orbed Gospel will bring under judgment systems, idols and values that oppose the reign of God. To be effective may I suggest a few ideas that will enable you to formulate a methodology for preaching.  What you do in your preaching workshop will be reflected in the pulpit. Give due diligence to preparation.

  1. Preaching is fundamentally story telling discursive discourse. Elie Wiesel, 1983 Nobel Prize winner once stated, “God created man because He loves stories.” Find a book on the art and theory of story telling. This will help you focus on the One Story, Jesus Christ in the midst of other stories.
  2. Develop the ability to read widely and selectively. This will prevent you from running on empty while delivering a message. Read poetry, science and anything that will widen your frame of reference.
  3. Discern the role of Scripture in preaching. It is important to take the Bible seriously but not literally in every instance. This will prevent you from allowing your opinion to dominate the discourse. Preaching is God’s word to humankind, handle it as such.
  4. Know the difference between a theme and a subject. A theme is the “big idea” of the entire discourse. It is a timeless truth worth remembering from beginning to end of your discourse. Always preach to a concern. A theme is the glue that holds everything together. g. “This leads to the warning, that no one can persistently flirt with evil and win.” From my sermon, titled “Sleeping with the Enemy.”  Make sure the sermon title is provocative. The sermon title or subject is “Sleeping with the Enemy” which is different from the warning which embodies the theme.
  5. A sermon should be contemporaneous. Focused study will enable you to translate the ancient language of scripture to twenty-first century economic, social and political problems facing us today.
  6. A Sermon should be a call to action. As you conclude your sermonic discourse you must query whether hearers are ready to act on the imperatives of the Gospel challenge? Listen and observe the challenges the people are experiencing so your message can “scratch where the listeners are itching.”
  7. A Sermon should be delivered under the unction of the Spirit and power. I suggest the dialectical approach to preaching as espoused by Dr. Samuel Proctor in his How Shall They Hear: Effective Preaching for Vital Faith. He suggests that you start the sermon with the 1. Antithesis (real) problem or concern Transition to the Thesis (Ideal) (Scripture as solution) 3. Synthesis –Conclusion – how the ideal connects with the real with two or three minor points and a conclusion.  This method is x-rayed in my small book Crockpot Preaching: Toward a Preaching Methodology, which is only available in e-Reader format on Amazon Kindle and will be available again in hard cover by August  at dr.lovett@theagora.net.

Conclusion: Discern your audience and know the occasion. Avoid preaching at a banquet. It is appropriate to give a dynamic address at a formal banquet, rather than a formal sermon. There are rules to observed for pulpit etiquette. Preaching is not grabbing a microphone, find your key and raving and ranting at the top of your voice as though the audience has a hearing problem. That is closer to singing. Preaching is not entertainment unless you intend to avoid challenging your audience. Preaching is not stringing together good sounding phrases and worn out cliché’s and platitudes from your favorite TV preacher all  by “tired touch your neighbor and high five two people near you.”. What about “leave your neighbor alone so your neighbor can hear.” Please do not listen to anyone attempting to teach preaching who is not trained.  Preaching at its best is designed to achieve maximum impact on the hearer.  Remember preaching is an act of worship and not a solo event. You should not replace Jesus Christ as the center of preaching discourse.

Follow me at www.theagora.net “where truth is spoken and never compromised.”

Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ecumenical Officer, emeritus

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