Ain't no preachin' 'round here
January 29 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Ain't no preachin' 'round here | Monday, Jan. 29, 2001

Monday, Jan. 29, 2001

Ain't no preachin' 'round here

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor "I think it's about time you found someplace else to go," said a former deacon of a church I once served.

"I don't have nothing against you personally," he said on that Monday morning when he dropped by the office, "you just can't preach a lick. You've always been real nice to me and you were good to visit when my wife's mother was sick ... but it's for the good of the church. We all know that there ain't no preachin' 'round here."

I was somewhat taken aback by the brother's forthrightness, but not by his opinion. I knew some of the preachers he admired, and I did not employ their high-volume, high-heat, high-pressure style. Nor did I want to.

Fortunately, the congregation as a whole was far more appreciative of my homiletical efforts.

I've reflected on that encounter as pastor search committees looking for a recommendation contact me. Time and again, they remark "we can't find anybody who can preach." I listen with awareness that good preaching is partly in the eye (and ear) of the beholder, but also with a growing concern that good preachers do seem to be in short supply.

Stylistic preferences aside, what are some basic requirements for good preaching?

Good preaching takes time. Time for prayerful consideration of the church's needs. Time for careful study of the scriptures through the use of quality commentaries and other Bible study tools (for me, it goes without saying that good sermons begin with a biblical text).

Good preaching requires time for reading that may range from the daily newspaper to good books to specialized homiletical resources. It takes time for reflection, time for careful organization, time for composition, time for fine-tuning, time for practice.

An old preaching proverb says you should devote an hour's preparation for each minute of a sermon. For most busy pastors, that kind of time is a fantasy, especially if they are expected to preach two or more times in a week (or if they preach 45 minute sermons). Thus, effective time management is an essential skill if pastors are to become good preachers.

Congregations can help to foster good preaching by understanding the pastor's need for time in sermon preparation. If a church expects its pastor to spend 40 hours per week on pastoral care, the best it can expect is an ill-prepared "Saturday night special" on Sunday morning.

Good preaching also requires passion, which can be conveyed in ways other than with great noise and much sweat. I will never forget a pastor's conference I attended as a very young pastor. The speaker advised us to buy shirts with collars two sizes bigger than normal so we wouldn't get choked when we got hot and our necks swelled during the sermon.

Passion can be expressed in quiet conviction as well as in pulpit pounding, but it must be present.

Good preaching is in touch with contemporary life. A pastor cannot rely on antiquated sermon and illustration books and expect to communicate well. Stories that begin with "a wee urchin on the streets of London" are unlikely to go over in Lumberton. It is ironic and unfortunate that the earliest and most widespread computer support programs for preachers rely heavily on commentaries and resources so old that their content is in the public domain.

Good preaching requires good observation. The best preachers learn to think theologically - all day, every day. They know that the best sermon illustrations do not come from books, but from personal experience. Stories from current news, from the world of sports, and from the vagaries of daily life can speak volumes of theological truth to one whose ear is tuned to hear it. Since the congregation is in touch with the same news and the same life issues, the use of personal and contemporary illustrations improves communication.

Other characteristics of good preaching could be listed (including creativity), but one that cannot be omitted is honesty.

Honesty involves integrity: pastors cannot effectively proclaim a gospel they do not believe or advocate a lifestyle they do not follow.

Honesty also encompasses a certain level of transparency: preachers who are willing to explore their own struggles and doubts will speak to the hearts of church-goers who know that someone understands them.

Let it not be said in our churches that "there ain't no preachin' 'round here."

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1/29/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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