Some random thoughts on preaching and listening to preaching….
- Throw away your commentaries. I know this sounds heretical, and I do believe in serious Biblical scholarship, but too often sermons seem to be based on the commentaries and not on the text of Scripture. Yes, ok, preachers do need to keep their commentaries for when the passages are complex and hard to understand – but they must spend far more time reading the text of Scripture than they do examining the words of the latest and greatest commentary.
- Keep your feet on the ground. Your sermons have to connect with the people that you are speaking to and for this to happen you must connect with the world they live in. This means listening to them, being aware of their concerns and understanding how it is they see the world. (For more on listening in proclamation read here).
- Unsubscribe from Big-Name Sermon Podcasts. This one is for congregation members, not preachers. There are a couple of reasons why I think that people should not subscribe to the podcasts from big name preachers. Firstly, it has got to be discouraging to your minister to know that the young techies in the congregation go straight from church to listen to the words of some celebrity preacher – and it is more likely to make you a comparer or critic of sermons, rather than someone who lives sermons. Secondly, listening to sermons from the other side of the world in the quiet of your home, or on your head phones denies the whole point of preaching as an exercise. Preaching is all about community, not individuality.
The thing that links all these three hyperbolic points (that means I’m overstating my case on purpose – remember that before commenting!) is my view of what preaching is all about. The role of the preacher is to prophetically show the congregation the way in which the story of the BIble explains, enlightens and should shape the story of their lives. A preacher who spends too much time looking at the details of the text or doesn’t understand the background his people come from can never fully make that connection. And if you listen to sermons which are aimed at a community other than yours, you are missing out on the prophetic message to your own community.
Just some thoughts…