Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
Preaching is a lot like fixing dinner
People often ask ministers how they decide what to preach. Some might envision that we follow a grand design of themes and texts. Others may guess that we darkly ponder the sins of our congregations, carefully crafting “zingers” to hurl at people on Sunday mornings. At least in my case, those assessments give too much credit either to the existence of grand designs or my ability to scrutinize the sins of my flock.
Sometimes I feel like I am shooting in the dark. The problem isn’t finding something to preach, it’s sorting among all the possibilities that could be preached. I start each Monday with many sermons in mind. By Saturday I have to narrow it down to one.
It’s somewhat like deciding what to cook for supper.
If you want to find me, I am usually at the grocery between 4 and 5 p.m. each day. So is most of my flock, so I’ve noticed. Recently, I ran into one of my ladies—a magnificent cook she is—but the day I saw her, she was in a quandary. What meal could she prepare that was interesting?
There’s the thing. Here is a store full of groceries, and I have a Bible full of texts. There is plenty to feed a multitude. But how to prioritize? What will capture interest, meet particular needs?
Preaching is a lot like fixing dinner!
Of course, just as there are cookbooks and recipe guides, there are sermon plans prepared to help parish clergy. There are scripture lessons suggested for the various seasons of the church year. There are pulpit helps and subscription services that provide everything from illustrations to whole sermons by the “best” preachers.
I am distrustful of these “canned” sermons. Most are too clever, just a bit “too cute.” A congregation pays right dear to have a message that is specially crafted for their needs. They’d rather it be tailored to fit, even if it is not eloquent. My flock is not the same as the next church down the street, much less the mega-church in Texas where the famous preacher holds forth, who prints his sermons online.
Besides, I would not want to admit I got my morning message from an entity called Yahoo!
In preparing sermons, a preacher exercises a certain parental role. It is the minister’s duty and responsibility to decide what is best for his or her people to hear. Given that most people want the message to be not only interesting and applicable, but as brief as possible—discernment is very important.
So is tact. People want to be challenged but not called out. Inspired but not insulted. Sometimes there can be a fine line between these things.
Church is a place where people pay to be chastised. It is something like being coached in a sport, or submitting to the discipline of a 12-step program or a weight loss trainer. So people put a great deal of trust in their minister. They have the right to expect a great deal in return.
In colonial days, a Huguenot gentleman worshiped in the Independent Church of Charleston, S.C., where the minister was wont to give extremely long sermons, even by the standards of that day. So, to make his point, the man began gathering up his family and taking his leave when the sundial reached twelve, whether the sermon was completed or not. In fact, these particular sermons were so long that the Huguenot found he could stroll to a house nearby, enjoy a leisurely dinner, and return to the church with plenty of time to listen as the minister finished his discourse.
Of course, the preacher took umbrage at this, and so after a few Sundays of witnessing this behavior, the preacher called out from the pulpit to the Huguenot as he was walking down the aisle: “A little pitcher is soon filled,” to which the Huguenot wheeled around and responded, “Aye, and you’re a fool!”
I don’t want to be a fool. That’s why I am out at the grocery store most days. Listening. Observing. Laughing. Pondering. Deciding what to eat, just like deciding what to preach takes interaction, consultation, and deliberation. I’m open to suggestions. What would be good this Sunday?
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page