Preaching right?

The Church Times is talking about preaching this week.  The College of Preachers (of which I am a paid-up member, don’t you know?) commissioned a study into preaching at various denominations.

17% said that they frequently heard sermons that made them change their lifestyles. In my humble experience, whenever one is tempted to have someone in mind when writing such a sermon they invariably don’t turn up that week.

97% said that they looked forward to the sermon each week and 84% agreed that they should be closely connected with the bible.  55% said their knowledge of Jesus was frequently improved by sermons. But only 16% said that sermons helped them to understand events in the news or controversial issues. (Anglicans came off a wee bit better in that one.)

It has made me think about my own preaching style which varies from week to week.  Sometimes it is more of a story telling time with wisdom stories from all faiths being used as a tool. Sometimes it is much more imaginative, getting into the story by imagining I am there.  Sometimes it is focussed completely on one phrase which has caught my eye. Sometimes there is a bit more history and theology and maybe feels more like teaching. And often the type of sermon depends on the amount of time I have to prepare.  Don’t we all wish we could hearken back to those days when the priest spent every morning reading and writing his sermon and every afternoon visiting?

Of course, we didn’t really get taught how to preach. When I was at Tisec I think there was one session on it.  (40 mins)  Because of this I did opt for a course on Homiletics (the study of preaching) at University but it was more theory than practice. This may explain why I joined the College of Preachers!  Unfortunately most of their courses are down south and not easy to attend but they recently had a fabulous day in Edinburgh which made me promise myself I’d spend more time in preparation, fired with some great ideas. I managed it once!

I do remember a few really good sermons.  Not as many as I would like, however.  The ones that paint pictures work well for me. I don’t hear many of them. But then, I’m a visual person.  And I don’t get to hear many sermons these days.

So, my question today is… what style of preaching do you prefer?  Can you recall a memorable sermon which has stuck with you? Do you ever feel challenged to go out and look at the world differently or to live differently?

Over to you…

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6 thoughts on “Preaching right?

  1. The best sermon I ever heard was on the subject of John Wesley “a protestant saint” – the preacher was a retired clergyman during an interregnum. I later met the clergyman at deanery synod where he was an excellent speaker, but increasingly obsessed with various strange notions about the English (not British, you note) as God’s chosen people and the perfection of the Book of Common Prayer before anyone started revising it. The oddity of his ideas in later life did nothing to diminish the wonderful way in which he could put them across, and he could have been a very dangerous man if he had sought election to high office.

  2. Given that you *really* don’t want to know the sermon I find most memorable, I can offer recollection of two memorable styles instead.

    One is, as you mention, an involving enlivening/empathetic story-telling style, which I associate more with my evangelical days in Edinburgh. (It can be gratuitous, sign of a “one-trick preacher”, however.)

    The other is, I suppose, Borg-esque in a couple of ways: I like the feeling that the speaker has done their research and is providing a studied historical background; also, the feeling that we have been there & done critical thinking, and now inhabit a more enlightened plane the other side (read: ambiguity!). This tends to lend itself to a metaphorical extraction of ideas, understandings and principles.

  3. As a member of ‘t congregation, without training in the ways of public speaking, I have always been surprised on how diverse the style of delivery is. I do not mean I expect everybody to be the same but good grief….. I have experienced everything from “I am doing this for my own spiritual wellbeing” with no real interaction with the assembled masses they see every week through lecturing, right through to the “In your face” evangelical style telling you how to live, think and breathe. It must be difficult…no impossible… to get to everybody in the congregation in one style so I suppose you need to mix it up each week.
    What makes it work for me I suppose is to allow a little humour in, where appropriate, and, bearing in mind I seldom if ever read the bible these days(that’s me banned then), make me think about the words on which the sermon is based, the structure of the language and how it may be interpreted – it is not Gospel (sorry!). Make people think rather than than give them all the answers but give guidance as to the point you are trying to make.

    I am not sure if this makes sense but I guess what I am trying to say is communicate, verbally and visually, with the congregation.

  4. If you want to say something to someone to change their lifestyle would it not be better just to tell them rather than chance they will be present and, perhaps even more unlikely, realise its aimed at them?

  5. The most memorable sermon I ever heard was on the text “Supposing him to be the gardener” – must have been about 20 years ago now. I wrote a poem, years later, based on that sermon.
    My pet hate (or maybe dislike – let’s not be extreme) is a sermon which is read rather than delivered to its listeners: I like eye-contact, the register of speech – all the things, in fact, for which Standard Grade English students have been graded for the past x years!

  6. Pingback: >Nota Beans | The Jog

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