This past Sunday I preached a sermon that was quite different for me and, I believe, quite different for the congregation. I presented information about our children’s ministry’s plan for updates and changes to our facility and their ministry in particular. In many ways it was vision casting with specific action items. Far too many sermons are preached that have little connection to what is going on, where we are headed and how people can actually get on board. Maybe that’s just me and my limited experience and maybe that is just a reflection on my own preaching. By and large that has been my experience. Preaching that has no direction will lead to a congregation that has no direction. This requires several things:
1 – Sermons need to be planned out in advance. The preacher needs to determine the path of the messages to make sure they are “going somewhere” and not just anywhere…that they are going where we believe God is taking the congregation. If vision is where we believe we are going then sermons can’t be randomly selected. They must point in that same direction. That takes intentionality and planning. I like to plan things out a few months in advance and then adjust as I go. I think both are required – planning and rebalancing/adjusting along the way as things progress.
2 – Sermons must be in tune with the ministries of the congregation. This takes in depth conversation with ministry leaders to know what it is their ministries need in order to keep actual ministry needs and wins before the congregation so actual ministry can be discussed, promoted and celebrated publicly. This connects the message with actual events in the life of the congregation.
3 – Sermons must be connected with reality. I stopped writing sermon introductions over a year ago because I realize that by the time I get up to preach there has been 30-40 minutes of things said and done that I won’t be able to predict when writing the sermon days prior. If I want my sermon to connect with reality it must be in tune with all that leads up to it both through the week and up to the moment I step up to preach.
4 – Sermons must give specifics. Without specifics, sermons are philosophical treatises on the abstract. Specifics illustrate for the congregation how the principles being discussed are played out in real time. Don’t use an online illustration pulled from a list of 4000 catchy illustrations…pull one from the life of the congregation.
5 – Find the right person to say it. The preacher is not always the right person to say all that needs to be said. Let that ministry leader get up and say it. Give them space and time. Let the congregation hear the passion of the person who has a passion for that rather than the preacher trying to share a story about someone else’s ministry, win, vision, etc. The congregation needs to hear from more voices and those invested who are trusted enough to run a ministry need to be trusted enough to talk about it publicly.