Friday, February 05, 2010

Preaching Guidelines

One of the classes I teach at Redeemer Ministry School is "Preaching." Here are the bullet points I gave my class this week on preaching.

Hello Preaching Students - here are the bullet points on Preaching that I emphasized this week.

  • Explain needed terms. Find how certain key words were heard by the listeners/readers in first-century Jewish-Greco-Roman culture. Give definitions as needed. But do not use "Webster's Dictionary." The listeners and readers of 2000 years ago were not 21st-century Americans.
  • Give context as needed. Again, the goal in explaining the text is to acquire the eyes and ears of the first-century Middle East/Greco-Roman listeners and readers. Some biblical texts demand more context than others. In this regard know your audience, and determine how much background context they will need.
  • In preaching you are a spokesperson for God; a voice speaking for God. For me this has to do with the importance of preaching. Every time I step up to preach somewhere, I take this seriously and joyfully. I do not want to misrepresent God. I refuse to take this lightly. For me it doesn't matter whether I'm preaching before 5, 500, or 5,000. Note this: most of the great moves of God in history happened when God moved in one person, or a few. They did not, mostly, happen in mega-situations. So when you preach, I fully expect that God will be saying something through you that will be for some of us, or many of us, or all of us.
  • Prepare spiritually by praying the text. For me this means carrying the verses with me at all times. I pull them out, read them and re-read them. I pray them. What does that mean? Prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together. So, preaching is a true collaborative event - me and God; God speaking to me and through me.
  • Ask, "God, what do you want to say when I preach?" In preaching there are two central moments: 1) what does the biblical text say? I want to be true to that. 2) What does God want to say through the preached biblical text? That's what I seek God for. God can reveal this to me days, even weeks, before the preaching event. Or, as he often does, he can reveal this to me as I am preaching. But here's a caution: I feel God will mostly do some on-the-spot revealing only when the preacher has prepared and prayed and studied with all they've got. I do not see God saying, "John doesn't prepared at all for these things, so I'll keep on rescuing him so people will think he's a great preacher." I don't think so.
  • The text needs to speak to you. What does God say to you, through the biblical text? If the text doesn't speak to you and influence you in some way it's hard to see how God's going to use you to influence others. When and as God speaks to you through the text, it's quite likely that what God is saying to you is going to also be a very good word for those who listen to your message.
  • Use analogies and personal examples to illustrate - as needed. This will be part of the word becoming flesh in you. The Gospels are essentially narratives. Judeo-Christian culture is a narrative culture. For we Jesus-followers, the Jesus-event is our "controlling life-narrative." "Story" is cool. Your story (what God is doing in and through you) is very cool.
  • What does God want to do after you preach? Here's what doesn't work, at least for me: "That's it, sermon's over, Amen, have a great day." No, God wants to "do" his Word in people. Of course this can and does happen before the preaching and during the preaching, and in various unknown ways in the hearts and minds of people. God's not limited in this regard. But when I am preaching I am listening for the Spirit's direction - how does God want to play this thing out, right now? This can mean, for example, that I invite people to be prayed for. At Redeemer we've seen this work itself out in a lot of different ways.