"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

31 August 2010

Top ten things I want you to remember (and why)

When I took Greek, my instructor gave us a list of the ten things she wanted us to remember. On the list were nine basic survival rules for dealing with Greek. The tenth thing to remember was "we had fun."

Maybe "we had fun" should be the number one thing, though, because if you remember having fun with what you learned, you're more likely to use the knowledge, be passionate, grow and learn more. Or at least try not to lose it.

Since I'm teaching "Gospel Proclamation for Deacons" again I thought I'd reprise that list, for preachers. So dedicated to this year's crop of deacons-to-be, here is the top ten list of things I want them to remember:

1. You can prepare all you want, pray and craft a homiletic gem; but if you don't speak clearly and project your voice to the whole room, nobody but you will benefit from your work. A beautiful sermon, muttered, is wasted.

2. You can speak eloquently and even receive many compliments and still have a lousy, pointless, or even heretical sermon. Prepare with fear and trembling and a heart rent before God.

3. Most jokes told during sermons are not nearly as funny as the preacher thinks they are. There's a reason professional comedians tend to get paid more than we do.

4. When in doubt, leave it out. If you're not sure about an illustration or you haven't chased the implications of a bright idea through to their end, please don't force your congregation to wonder what on earth you are talking about. Likewise, not everything you learned about a passage needs to be in the sermon.

5. Don’t shy away from difficult texts; sometimes, that’s where the most profound discoveries are to be found.

6. Take passages in context. Assume that the original writer did not have attention deficit problems and really meant the text to come out with that flow of thought.

7. The Holy Spirit can inspire you in the pulpit on a Sunday morning. The Holy Spirit can also inspire you in your study during the week.

8. Talk to the congregation, when appropriate even to individuals within the congregation. It helps them pay attention, and put you at ease.

9. Sermons age rather more like fish than like wine. No matter how good they were the first time, leftover sermons almost always stink. Fresh preparation grows you and helps you own the Scriptures afresh each time, no matter how busy your week was.

10. And yes, remember that we had fun. Love preaching and the people will more likely love listening.

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