Friday, November 27, 2015

What Preaching Is


One of the things I love about my current job is training younger preachers. By the grace of God I've probably preached around 500 times over the past 15 years and hopefully I've learned some things along the way but I've still got plenty more to learn. And however many times you've done it, every sermon starts as a blank page...

I've particularly been helped by Marcus Honeysett, Dick Lucas and Tim Keller's approaches to preaching - to hol out Christ to people where they are. Andy Stanley's 'Communicating for a change' was a gamechanger in terms of getting away from complexity to simpler sermons and better connection with people.

For all the skill and good grammar, I wonder whether preaching is more a matter of conviction than it is technicality.  There is craft to learn in good communication, in filtering how much to say, how to articulate it clearly, convincingly. And the preparation process varies. This is an art more than a science.

I'm persuaded by Keller that more time with people than time in the study is a good idea (though Keller would probably presuppose a rigorous theological education)...  we must have Christ in view and people in view, because in the end it comes down to something like...
Sermon preparation is Exegeting Christ from the text and Repenting to Christ.
As I sit in front of a Bible text and a blank page the goal is to exegete Christ from the text. The Bible is, one way or another, in some way or another, from one angle or another, about Christ. Seeing how takes good grammar, good understanding of context, of Biblical and Systematic Theology and the illumining of the Spirit.

If I'm not drawing that HIM from the text I've missed the point... and better get repenting to him, crying out for him to make himself known through the ink on the page and the light of his Spirit in my heart. When I see him, the posture of preparation is one of kneeling. Let me repent again to him.

Pixar and others tell us that stories are about the "once upon a time... and every day... but then one day..." moments. And so it is with the gospel. I live my life blissfully/sinfully unaware of Christ in some way in at least some part of my life, but then I encounter him in the text, and everything begins to change. I'm called to fresh repentance - however long I've been walking with Jesus or not.

And then, what is preaching?
Preaching is doing [all of the above] in front of people.
One human being in front of other human beings. All of us somewhere in the middle of life, and - whilst I want to initiate a conversation, entice them to see that what we're going to look at matters - my goal must be to exegete Christ from the text in front of people, with people, for people, and then to lead the way in publicly repenting (repeating and restating the repenting I've done in my study) so that together we might all go to Christ.

When that's my goal - we'll get to Christ. When that's my goal - I stand inches ahead of people having already faced what the Spirit says through this text in the preceding days rather than over and apart from people. I come as a broken person, convicted, humbled, needing Christ for myself.

Encountering Christ does wonders for my posture and tone, my compassion and tenderness, not to mention my desire to be clear and persuasive. Encountering Christ doesn't wonders for me, turns my life inside out, upward and outward.

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