Thursday, June 04, 2009

7 Preaching Discoveries in 7 Years (#1: Be Positive)

Someone emailed me recently to comment on a sermon I preached 7 years ago. I shuddered to think! Not that everything was bad 7 years ago, but of course, one learns so much over that time. I'm not setting myself up as an expert, and I've got a long way to go, but I am going to write 7 things I've discovered about preaching over 7 years, with some suggestions. You can read this alongside an MO for Preaching. Keen for your thoughts.


My tongue is firmly in my cheek as I write that, as if being negative where ever trendy. But there is truth here.

My Modus Operandi used to be: Start by telling us what we currently 'think', why it's wrong and why the Bible is right. The trouble with this is that it could be an exercise in power. And it gets tiring for the hearer too. Better, I think, to start by asking what God has for us that is good and right and reconciling, even if sometimes difficult to for our sinful hearts to hear. That is, what faith can be cultivated in dark times? What hope will we be lifted up here this morning? What love is possible? What ways can I be resourced to live the Christian life? What things do we do to banish error and take every thought captive to Christ?!

I certainly do preach negatively, but I now make it part of the body of the sermon, rather than its focus. Unless it is obvious that something strong needs to be preached. I'm thinking of Galatians here. But the default position must be to construct, rather than deconstruct.

Positive is the new black.


#2 to come.

Pic on Flickr by my way home.


Anthony Douglas said...

Ha! If I went back 7 years, I wouldn't be able to restrict it to seven major things discovered ;-) But this is a great idea for a series, so keep 'em coming.

This one: it's a subtle distinction you're making, and I'm not sure I've quite latched on. Care to give an example? I presume 'exercise in power' refers to the preacher's power...but this then leads me to wonder how we show the power of the Bible while not taking any to ourselves. I think my solution here is to walk people through my process of discovering what I'd not understood, though I do this implicitly or it'd get v. introspective and dull!

Perhaps it's 'positive' that's throwing me off...too many potential meanings to the term.


byron smith said...

Yes. Yes!

michael jensen said...

For some, it ain't a Sydney sermon until it is really negative... it's a test of orthodoxy.

Justin said...

@Anthony- sounds like you care properly for your peeps. Praise God. By positive, I think I mean that the tone is constructive. I know that sermons that begin negatively end up constructive (hopefully). I guess I'm advocating a structure like this:

A. This is how we are going to be constructive.
B. Here are some areas to deconstruct.
C. Let's construct.

Rather than:

A. Deconstruct.
B. Construct.

I think that most of the epistles are doing the former.

@Byron- indeed! Indeed!

@Mike- some, yes. Me, once.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that the way you preach is then modelled in the way the congregation speaks about Jesus to their friends? Whether conscious or not.

That if the preacher is negative/ positive, then the conversations at work, school, uni & mothers groups will be the same.

That the methods, tone etc when working through an idea or passage will be imitated outside the church...

Justin said...

@Sam -- I would have thought so...