Pre-Sermon Review – A Strange Idea?

I don’t know of many churches that require it, but I do see many that should consider it. Too often we leave the preacher in a very lonely spot as far as preaching is concerned.  The sermon is prepared and delivered, and then everyone gets to think and evaluate and critique and respond and so on.  But it is too late if something is omitted that is vital, or included that is misleading, or misspoken that is heretical.

I know of one church that requires whichever staff member is preaching to present their sermon outline and content at a breakfast meeting a couple of days before delivery.  It allows for interaction, input, critique, and all that before it does any damage, or misses an opportunity, with the gathered folks on the Sunday.

If your church has a “staff” that are paid to work together during the week, this should be a no-brainer.  But for the many more churches where the workers work elsewhere during the week, the decision to bring a few together ahead of the Sunday is a big decision.  But if we believe in the importance of preaching the Word, then surely it is a decision worth considering seriously.

Preaching is about relationship.  It is about communication.  God’s Word to humanity presented by a human in the power of the Spirit that collectively and individually we might have the opportunity to respond to Him, both for salvation and for spiritual growth.  Preaching involves relationship between speaker and listeners (a good speaker knows it is not mere monologue, irrespective of whether they choose to have verbal participation from the listeners).  Preaching is relational, but we so easily make preaching a solo exercise.  Doesn’t really make sense.

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Facebook in Sermon Preparation

James Wood made the following comment on the post Extent of Application:

I think he brings up a good point. I’ve tried to combat this by forming the sermon through conversation with the community. The beauty is, technology can aid this! I will post questions from the text to my facebook page as I’m studying. The responses help me to direct my study and hone my examples to reflect the needs of the community.

I have not tried this, but am intrigued.  While not a huge fan of facebook, it may be an easy way to access “feed-forward” input in the preparation of a sermon.  The point of “feed-forward” input is to be able to hone a message in advance of it being preached by gaining input from an individual or group during the preparation process.  (Obviously it is kind of like feedback, but in anticipation.)

Has anyone else tried using Facebook or Twitter or even good old fashioned email for input prior to preaching?  There is something about face to face interaction, but let’s be honest and recognize that something is better than nothing and unless we have a system in place, we are often choosing nothing over something in these matters.  At the same time, perhaps people feel less pressure in an electronic social setting and are therefore more willing to engage honestly?

Any thoughts or experience on this, please share!

Lone Ranger Preacher?

Apart from all the spiritual dangers inherent in journeying alone in ministry, there are implications for preaching too.  As preachers most of us naturally fall into a lone ranger approach to sermon preparation.  The time constraints in ministry, the tendencies of personal temperament (many preachers are introverts, it seems), and often the background of training and observed behavior all push us into a solo approach to sermon preparation.  While some things must be done on our own in prayerful solitude with the Lord, we should proactively engage with others too.  Alternative perspectives strengthen preaching on every level.

While it is still technically a solo exercise, take stock of your reading.  Do you read things from different perspectives, or always the same old familiar authors?  It is easy to become comfortable in reading and lose the glorious benefit of being stretched, challenged, provoked, and perhaps even incensed!

Take stock of your preparation process.  Do you actively engage with others as you prepare sermons?  I’m not saying any of us can do all of these every week, but here are some ideas.  Obviously your spouse, if you have one – the perspective of the opposite gender can really help.  Other preacher or preachers?  Perhaps in your church (perhaps ones you are mentoring or being mentored by), or perhaps in another church – time spent talking through two messages together will probably benefit both of you more than spending that half hour on your own message alone!  A feed-forward group?  That is a group of people brought together to specifically share input for forthcoming preaching – could be content, could be support material, could be giving you insight into how differently people think on an issue, etc.

Being a preacher may be a solitary calling in some ways, perhaps lonely at times, certainly a regular overt entry into spiritual warfare, but is that all?  Let us not forget that God has brought us into communion with His people as well as Him.  Let us not forget that we need others just as others need others.  And let’s remember that what is true of us in life and ministry is also true in preaching – let’s not be lone ranger preachers.  Let us rather strengthen ourselves and our preaching by exposure to greater perspective.