Friday, April 09, 2010

Concerning preaching.
I think it must be true that preachers really make up about 97% of people who think about preaching other than when listening to Sunday's sermon. But we preachers think about if often. A lot. We are interested in preaching for a bunch of reasons. At a carnal level, its the gladiatorial games of evangelicalism and we measure our warrior-ish-ness by our preaching. Okay, maybe that's a bit much. But we DO measure something by our preaching. Very few of us are so egoless that we don't somehow gauge our self-worth by what, how, how long, how cool and how many heard what we said in that 35 minutes last Sunday. On a little deeper level, we actually do take our calling fairly seriously (and ourselves too, some days.) In a nutshell, Spurgeon said to his "students," "Dude. Can't preach well? Get a job. You're not called to the ministry." Or something to that effect.

I am in the process of scanning 27 years of sermons into PDF format via our new, cool Bizhub C220 Galactic Copier/Scanner/Assimilator. I have been finding sermon series--I have always preached from full manuscripts--around our church (one series set of Notes, I found on the floor of the church attic--isn't that cool?) These were MY Notes. Here's another interesting thing--with a bunch of these series, I don't even remember preaching them. Thus, I find a series, say to myself, "Whoa! Cool! I preached that??!! Dang. I don't even remember preaching that series back in, like, 1989." Which makes me think that the sub-story of both LOST and FRINGE, the idea that there are parallel universes which exist and which have their own versions of Us in them, might be right. I think maybe the Other Me in a parallel universe must have preached some of these series. Anyway, I am scanning these series for posterity. They will be available in PDF via e-mail, website, CD and any other cool way I can think of getting them out. Not that anyone will want them, but as I said, we measure our self-worth by these messages.

Also of note to me, in viewing all my old series in neat stacks on the Library table, I notice that I have (embarrasingly) had a peculiar fetish for creating nifty (dorky?) new logos (haha no pun of the Bible software I use, intended) for my Dartmouth Bible Notes masthead. I have made up, like, 15 different logos over the years. (Here's my Cool-Retro-1940's era; here's my snazzy, Back to the Future 1980's era; here's my Minimalist, Just Read the Flippin Notes era.) Man, I must really be addicted to something...

I also note that I have always--over some 1,400 sermons at this point--done messages about 3½ to 4 pages, single space, 12 pt. font, translating into the fact that my messages are all about the same length. Which must make listening to me for 27 years (there's a few in my church who have endured that long) really, really predictable! (Predictable people defend themselves by pointing out that we are dependable.)

In doing this Scan Project, I am now publishing a List of Available Messages - Electronic (LAME). It will be in this Sunday's bulletin, which means, it will be on the sanctuary floor, in copious numbers on Sunday afternoon! I am quite proud of the fact that I, single-handedly, have scanned over 2,300 pages of very spiritual, relevant, intuitive and otherwise highly practical Notes of Sermons - Electronic (NOSE), thus far. I estimate that this represents about 2/3 of my sermon production, to date, going back to the Big Bang (when I actually graduated from seminary) in 1983.

Preaching is such a strange practice. On the one hand, it seems remotely sexual. It is an intimate thing to do, to reveal your thoughts for interplay, discussion and then Final Point! It is also sort of like gaming - there is a sense of moving from one level to another. It, of course, is primarily spiritual and I am all too aware of the implications of You-Can't-Take-the-Flock-Further-Than-You've-Come-Yourself as it applies to what I say in a sermon. Preaching is also hugely sensitive for preachers. We are laying out our minds, our hearts, our lives for people to see. That is hard some weeks. Because some weeks I have had a crappy week, spiritually, myself, or I have been in conflict which some sheep and I feel hypocritical trying to Say Something to them about their spiritual walk. But lay out our hearts, we do just the same. Week after week.

All of this to say, I find, upon review of the whole experience, that I really enjoy the business of preaching. I studied with Haddon Robinson for a while, twice. I listen to sermons all the time and I have a few favorite preachers--none of which are the Hot Ones on the radio. And I have come to regard these values as important:
a. Preach the Word of God, primarily. Stay on target.
b. Learn about humor.
c. Mind the time of a message. Know when people begin drifting, and quit 3 minutes before that.
d. Be humble.
e. Don't yell.
f. Don't use words like "millieu."
g. Use good illustrations only, and only a few.
h. Tell cool stories, and personal ones regularly.
i. Pray over every sermon. Every one. Never become smug, self-sufficient.

I would love to start a preaching small group, with a few preachers where we would talk about preaching and our sermons. But I don't think that will happen. There's too many other small groups needing to happen...

1 comment:

Jehu said...

i'd actually be up for a preaching small group or something...inexperienced as i am in such things, it'd give me a chance to learn from dudes with experience. your tips are pretty much spot on from what i learned in Homiletics 1 back at PBU.

btw, this is Tarmel. :-D