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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday Festival: What is Preaching?

Revhipchick is pondering A Conundrum of Preaching at her place

Preaching is a mystery to me. I've been blessed to find that I actually enjoy it. In the beginning it was terrifying, truly terrifying to me. Now that I've come to enjoy it I've discovered (developed?) a bit of a conundrum. It seems that those days in which I leave the pulpit feeling distraught and frustrated because I had been vague, speaking in platitudes, missing the meat of what I needed to say...those days are ones in which folks tell me after the service it was nice and they enjoyed it and even a few folks will come up days later and tell me how much that sermon meant to them or spoke to them. Then there are days like today in which I felt as those I spoke the Gospel, that the Holy Spirit was with me and I came close to saying what was placed before me and everyone in the church looks at me with dead eyes, Joel says I couldn't follow you, I couldn't pay attention and yet I feel like I've actually preached or said something meaningful. On one hand I am grateful that I never know how my sermons are received, that their reception rarely matching my experience of the delivery because then I am reminded that preaching is not about me. Not really, that it is about God using that space, that time for more than what I can know or understand. That said, it still leaves me confused and unsure of what I should do. How am I to preach? Am I to preach the stuff that makes people feel good and keeps them pleased or do I preach in the ways that feel like good preaching to me? I preach from my heart either/both ways and I can't say they are opposite things. But some days it feels as though there are these 2 different ways/approaches to preaching and that neither are fully satisfying, at least neither satisfy both parties. Please drop me a line in the comments or via email because I'm very interested in hearing others' thoughts and experiences about preaching. Perhaps this is a stage of growth and as I develop further they will come closer to being one and the same.

What is your experience with this? This is a conversation that should continue....Share your thoughts in the comments; if you want to link to a blog post, do it with this formula: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.


  1. And then there are those times, when you've praught your little heart out, and are standing at the door shaking hands as folk are leaving... and someone says sommat along the lines of: 'you know, that so utterly spoke to where I'm at in my life right now with xyz. When you talked about abc I was really struck with just how seemed to know exactly what was going on. etc.'
    Excepting that what has been heard has been sooooo utterly another thing entirely as to be a different sermon altogether!
    Ah well, the Spirit moves as she will!!!

    However we preach, whatever style, whichever words, we are called to just get on with it, I reckon. And that we are called to preach with authenticity/ integrity, and mixed in with a good dash of compassion... and called to live with the tension.
    My two cents worth for today. And now that I've had my study diversion, back to the man who could make grown men tremble from the pulpit, John Knox...!

  2. Been there, done that, including Nik's addendum!

    Sometimes you just have to tell yourself that the Spirit works in the listener as much as in the speaker. I also suspect that those deeper sermons that are more meaningful to you may find their targets in people who are less likely to give effusive praise after a service. They may be holding your words in their heart to ponder later and long. Don't let your listeners make you distrust yourself and your ability to hear what God is saying to you.

  3. Sometimes when I write the sermon for Sunday, I know I am pleasing myself and that may mean that the congregation won't love the way that I say what is in my heart/soul. I know I could do it differently, almost as entertainment, but then I remember some things are way to important to be purely entertainment. At the other end, some days when my aim is to keep their attention, make the message meaningful and send them out thinking, I do it in a way that I know they will attend.

    So, it seems that I preach my soul/heart for me when I need it and my soul/heart for the congregation when they need words to hang on to in life. The message is the same, the delivery a bit different. Some like it either way!

  4. Nik--that is exactly it! I don't remember if I explicity said this but I'm grateful for those moments because it reminds me that this preaching gig is not about me!

    Thanks for your great comments and encouragement!


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