PreacherTalk

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A JEREMIAH MINISTRY?

 “Well, if your church doesn’t grow,” a former pastor’s wife said to Barbara Hughes, “Kent is going to feel like a failure.” Barbara had been talking with a woman whose husband had left the pastorate to sell life insurance. She knew that success in ministry is generally measured by growth in numbers. Kent and Barbara were struggling with a declining church, and Kent felt like a failure. They tell their story in Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. I remember sitting in a classroom years ago listening to Kent and Barbara and thinking how helpful it was to me as a new pastor. Barbara told the woman, “I don’t know why, but you are wrong, and I’m not going to rest until I find out why!” 

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SERMON PREP AS SOUL PREP

How do you stay fresh as a pastor? I have been asked that question many times over the years. As pastors, we spend much of our time preparing to preach. We carefully exegete the passage. The author’s intent, historical/cultural context and textual analysis play important roles in our exegesis. The danger is that sermon prep becomes an academic exercise – a technical skill we develop or a professional task we perform. Professional sermon creators preach shallow messages because our sermons come from shallow hearts. Preachers can substitute technical skills for spiritual depth leading to superficial sermons. How do we prep our souls to preach soul refreshing sermons?

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BOOK REVIEW OF PASTORAL PREACHING

Conrad Mbewe captured my attention with his book on pastoral preaching published in 2017. I have been reflecting much on the uniqueness of pastoral preaching as distinct from evangelistic/missional and national/universal church preaching. Many leaders write books on missional preaching today. How do we reach our culture for Christ? Many of our most popular models for preaching are people who preach to the body of Christ as a whole. Their preaching is generic because their audience is general. We can gain much benefit from these resources, but I think we need more emphasis on pastoral preaching. Mbewe’s book is an excellent step in that direction, written by a local church pastor with a local church vision.

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OH NO! ANOTHER CHRISTMAS SERMON!

It is the fattest folder in my file cabinet. A pastor once jokingly told me that he knew it was time to retire after 30 years in his church because he couldn’t come up with another Christmas sermon. I have been preaching in the same church for 27 years. My “Christmas Messages” file is full while my brain seems empty. I have preached 40 Christmas sermons not counting Christmas Eve and Christmas program homilies. I have preached 6 sermons from the Old Testament, 27 from the Gospels, 6 from the epistles and 2 from Revelation.

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PREACHING TO THE CROWD OR THE CORE?

Should we preach to the crowd or the core on Sunday morning? Should our sermons be evangelistic, or edifying, to the unchurched or the churched? Many argue today that our preaching should be cross-centered salvation oriented messages rather than expository Bible teaching. The biblical examples of sermons by Jesus and the apostles focus on reaching the crowds of people with the gospel; the argument goes, so we should preach the same way. (Never mind the pesky distinction that Jesus and Paul preached in the marketplace of the city, not the gathered community of believers.) Furthermore, the popularity of attractional sermons seems to validate the method.

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