I was thinking today, how much my attitude toward preaching has changed. I used to be obsessed with preaching. In my early days I loved listening to great preachers and reading great sermons. I hoped that by doing so I too could become a great preacher. I even went to a preaching school in Memphis Tennessee to hone preaching skills. To some extent I was successful. Compared to many in the church scene I was involved with I was a good preacher (my Dad used to say “If you want to look good, hang out with ugly people”) I was invited to speak quite often and spent hours honing my craft.
Lately I realise that my attitude has been drastically affected by the ‘western’ concept of discipleship, where discipleship is an intellectual process and the Sunday sermon provides the content by which the Christian is to grow. I often quoted John Stott “Semon-ettes make Christian-ettes.” This though gives us the inflated idea that the sermon is the centrepiece of all true discipleship.
I now believe that it is only in relationships that we can grow and that it takes much more time than an half hour Sunday to grow! I think of my children, who despite my feeble attempts at influence have become wonderful human beings. They learned politeness and kindness at home because it was taught and demonstrated but also because we had an environment where they knew they were loved. They learned because they knew they were safe.
I was at a meeting recently where a professional minister was sharing how he spends an hour of preparation for each minute of his preaching. I wondered if I followed his model where would the time come from. I am convinced that my time is better spent building wholesome relationships than in ‘crafting’ a sermon. I have dispensed with the “Three Point Sermon” I try and preach a one pointer which can be applied. When someone asks me how long it takes me to write a sermon (though I never actually write one) I say “A life time!” I can only work out in a message what God has so patiently worked into me.
This life on life stuff is to me so much more important than a well crafted sermon and in my experience is much better at producing followers of Jesus aka disciples.