Monday, August 2, 2010

The edge in preaching

One of the great challenges of preaching today is preaching which is both engaging and compelling. By 'engaging' I mean 'capturing and holding the attention, interest, and heartfelt reception of the message by the hearer.' By 'compelling' I mean 'forcing the hearer to respond (at least in their heart) to the message AND pressing the hearer to choose to return for the next sermon.'

We live in a busy world, with competing demands on time, and many, many messages competing for our attention and reception. In theory Christians should come to church, week by week, save for serious illness. In practice, as many ministers observe to each other, the 'new regularity' is twice a month. (Once 'regular' was twice on Sunday!)

If this week's sermon is, "Well, okay, quite a good exposition of the readings, with some useful things to say, but, to be honest, went on a little bit long, and, if I am really honest, I kind of drifted off through the middle section, and, in the end, I am not sure how it relates to my life right now" then "Will I come back?" does not have a guaranteed affirmative answer!

Now, to head off one obvious response, there is a fine line between sermons which are entertaining in their attempt to be engaging, and unhealthily emotive in their attempt to be compelling. Nothing here is intended to direct preachers to become 'more entertaining' or 'more emotive'.

But is it too much to ask of preachers, especially of myself (!!), that in my/our preparation I keep asking myself/ourselves, what is engaging me/us? What is compelling to me/us about the message being prepared? What passionate edge do I/we bring to the importance of the message which will (to mix metaphors) both cut into the heart of its hearers and rub off from preacher to congregation?

If my review-of-progress on Friday is that the message sounds pretty ho-hum, then I need to rework it. Not inventing an 'edge' which does not exist, but finding the edge which is always in Scripture because hearing Scripture and obeying it is a matter of life and death.

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