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Why Another Preaching Site?

June 2, 2009

I have preached more than one sermon that did not connect.  I watch the congregation staring at the stained glass windows with eyes glazed over or fiddling with the bulletin.  I can tell that some of them are wondering if there will be a long line at the waffle shop after service.  Sometimes the sermon is so painful that I know there are people looking up the cross and wondering if Jesus chose the easy way out.  I feel the sweat dripping down my arms and think the very same thing.

So mostly, I want to avoid that feeling.

A good sermon is a collaborative effort at almost every point of its life, from germination to study to delivery.  My best ones are usually the result of good teamwork in at least four different steps of the process.  First, God, scripture and preacher must find something to say to one another.  Second, he pastor also engages two worlds—the Bible’s and the modern age to find out how those two worlds are connected.  Third, if the sermon is to have its full life, the preacher must also put sermon into the context of worship, which means more collaboration between minister and other worship leaders.

Finally, the speaker and listeners participate in an assumed contract.  The congregation allows the preacher a measure of authority; she agrees to provide honesty, truth and relevance in a palatable package; and we all pray that the Holy Spirit will show up on Sunday.  If the people will not or cannot participate, those twenty minutes seem like a week in the dentist’s chair.  We have all heard and preached sermons like that.

Just about the only time that sermon preparation seems to be an individual task are those hours when the pastor is alone in the study, typing away and sweating over words, concepts and images, fearful that this is the week the people will finally realize he is a fraud.  He wonders why God has chosen this very moment to be off somewhere playing golf.  It is then that the entire burden feels as if it is falling exclusively on one set of weary shoulders.  But even then, despite all appearances, the preacher trusts that God is still working with him.

When I arrived at my current church appointment about seven years ago, I was fortunate enough to fall in with a group of colleagues who meet together every other week to discuss sermon preparation.  I soon discovered that this new layer of collaboration enhanced my ability to create meaningful sermons.  It is one of the most important ways I use my time.  If I miss a session, my preaching suffers.  On Sundays after I miss, I keep looking over my shoulder for a choir member coming up behind me to crack me on the skull and put me out of my (and the congregation’s) misery.

It helps that in our group we like each other.  We enjoy being together.  If someone in our hierarchy had ordered us to gather simply because we serve churches in the same area, we would have rebelled and stopped meeting long ago.  We spend a good deal of our time together working through the travails of a pastor’s existence.  It is part preaching prep, part support group.

Not everyone is fortunate to have such a gracious group.  I once served a church in rural Hawaii, and my nearest United Methodist colleague was an hour-and-a-half away.  I enjoyed his company, but it wasn’t exactly convenient to get together often.  Since many churches in the United States are small or rural churches, most of us don’t have a preacher down the hall for advice.

Honestly, the world needs another preaching site like Jesus needs another hole in his side.  Yet most preaching sites are not collaborative in nature.  They present sermons, gather exegetical helps and ideas for liturgy.  There aren’t many, however, that offer a place to share thoughts.  My goal is to create a site where we can together ask and answer questions.  I want your input as much as I want to give you mine.  I may take the first shot, but when the rebound comes off the rim, it is anybody’s ball.

One person cannot preach.  It is something we all do together—pastor, congregation and God.  I have learned that I don’t have to limit my preparation to my own skills and creativity.  I thank God for that.  If you use the lectionary, this may be right up your alley.  You are encouraged to join us in the conversation.  Even if you don’t use the lectionary, you may still find help for your own sermons.  Heaven knows I need help with mine.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 4, 2009 10:16 am

    Thanks for looking at my blog. Good luck with yours!

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