I’ve now got a solid six years or so under my belt of preaching sermons to a pretty broad group of Christians at my home church in Sarnia. You can read all my sermons, as I’ve posted them in full transcript here. The only thing these sermon posts will be lacking is the dialogue that happens in the middle of the sermons between folks from our church. I’ve tried lots of different tactics in my sermons. I’ve tried the surprise sermon, where I trick people into thinking the wrong way and then I hit them later on in the message with the truth. I’ve tried the acting/storytelling approach where I pretend to be a character almost the entire time to try to help them understand the context of what we are reading. I’ve tried the academic approach of bombarding them with quotes and arguments from scholars so they have a full view of what happened. I’ve tried the illustrative approach in pulling from multiple modern and contemporary sources to help reinforce my point. I’ve tried the practical approach; by that I mean not preaching at all and having the entire church get up and do some type of service. I’ve tried the indirect approach of hinting a lot and then hoping it comes out in conversation. So really I’ve approached this whole preaching bit from a lot of different angles and yet I still feel like in terms of results I feel like a failure.
The whole idea of preaching had become lost on me. There is all sorts of ways to look at what goes on during a Sunday morning in most churches where some dude gets up and gives a 45 minute lecture about their belief system. We could look at it as an educational model where people are coming so they are constantly learning more about their faith and what they are supposed to be doing in the world. Some churches treat it more like an educational model for life with all sorts of tips for living well, being happy, being theologically correct and getting rich. Some churches use preaching as inspirational tools to encourage everyone to fight the good fight and give them little pat on the backs for their upcoming week.
I think for too long, I was convinced that it was my job as the preacher to convince people of something. Whether that be to live more closer to Jesus, better understand the Greek word for community or to have more passion for lost souls. Heck, I used to think it was my job to make sure people were using the best mobile phone or the best e-mail provider. I took the role of influencer seriously. However, I no longer see it as my job to convince anyone of anything in preaching or in technology. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s just that I’m growing up and I no longer feel responsible for other’s people’s lives as if I need to (as Joe puts it) constantly be attempting to upgrading everyone’s life. So preaching then has become something different for me.
I don’t care much to try and ‘improve’ the life of everyone that’s listening. I’m not doing it just because ‘the Bible says so.’ At one point I might have been trying to get people to make better decisions about their life, but now I’ve realized that no amount of preaching will ever actually accomplish this and that even if I could change what someone believes I can’t change how someone lives. The only reason I have is that I find it important to remember together. By that I mean, that coming together and reminding each other why we live the way we do and what we believe about who we are and who God is important to our development as Christians and as humans who believe in God. So for me the role of the sermon isn’t to instigate a certain kind of lifestyle or to guilt people for living wrong. The role of the sermon for me has become about joining in the grand reminder that Jesus is Lord and we are his people. It’s too depressing taking on the mental burden of trying to change a communities lifestyle into living the way that I interpret the Kingdom. But if I am just a servant to the greater story, then my only role is to keep pointing back to it and reminding people who they are in that story and that it is their story.