Preach Responsibly

Musings on Preaching, Ministry, and Life


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Philosophy of Ministry

I think it is good for preachers and all ministers to have a concise philosophy of ministry.  Mine will always be a work in progress to some extent, but I do think it’s important to have focus as we engage in our preaching and ministry tasks.  Below is my current philosophy of ministry:

 

Everything I do in ministry will be done in order to honor God. God is revealed to us in scripture as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is relational within the Godhead, and God desires relationship with Creation. This is especially true of humanity. Since humanity is made in God’s image, he desires a relationship with us. His desire for us is also that we live in right relationship with him, with others, and with his creation.

 

Many of the forces working in the world today are destructive—they seek to tear down institutions, families, and individuals. God, however, is a creator. The Father sent his son to grow up as the child of a carpenter. Therefore, I choose in my ministry to build rather than destroy, but rarely in ministry do we create out of nothing. As an adult, Jesus mended many who were broken in body and in spirit. Sometimes buildings need an inspection, but a building inspection serves no purpose if it points out the flaws in a structure with no one following up to make repairs or improvements. I will use my gifts of training and teaching in order to build-up the members of the church and their relationships with one another and with God.

 

I focus on three areas of building. First I seek to build and strengthen relationships, starting with my own relationship with God. I also seek to help others strengthen their relationship with God. Preaching is one of the primary avenues that I use to encourage people in this direction. Another avenue is teaching—which has an entirely different flavor from preaching, but both serve to instruct, exhort, and encourage Christians and non-Christians alike. In this area of building, I also seek to establish healthy relationships with other leaders of the congregation, and with church members. In these relationships, we can encourage one another to greater faith and service in Christ.

 

Second, I seek to build stronger families. By focusing on marriages and parenting, we can help to build, or rebuild, a structure that is undergoing increasing decay in America. I do not think anyone enters into a marriage hoping it will fail, but too often this is the story, even with Christian couples. Through emphasizing pre-marital and marital assessment and counseling, through mentoring relationships, and through classes and workshops, I will facilitate the strengthening of marriages and families within the church…and anyone else who has a care for their marriage and who wants to participate.

 

Finally, I seek to build and train disciples. Even the person who has been a Christian the longest still has room to grow in faith and service. Through my relationships with others I seek to identify their gifts and explore with them how they can best put these gifts to use in service to God and others. Another part of training disciples is making disciples or evangelism. I hope to live my life as if I am a missionary, and I encourage church members to live the same way.

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Transparent Preaching

How much should a preacher talk about himself?

On the one hand, you have David Buttrick who argues that self-disclosure has virtually no place in preaching.  On the other hand you have Fred Craddock who talks about his own experience so much that at times you think he’s preaching The Gospel According to Craddock.

I do think there is a happy medium.  I was told that Ron Allen once suggested that you should only talk about yourself once every month to six weeks.  While I don’t think we need to place such a rigorous rule on our preaching, I think there is  reason for Allen’s suggestion (I would appreciate a citation for this rule, if it is indeed from Allen).

Certainly, in some of Allen’s recent works on the listeners’ responses to a sermon, he has also argued the value of transparent self-disclosure.  Most of us would agree that some of the most effective and powerful ministry and preaching emanates out of personal experience.  Whether it is a long-term recovering addict working with those whose addictions are still insidiously intertwined in their lives or a reformed prisoner working with newly released convicts, our experiences shape who we are and give us a portion of our pathos and ethos.  Yet still there is a danger; are we making ourselves the center of our message rather than the risen Jesus, God the Father, or the Holy Spirit?

The simple point I’m trying to make is that some preachers talk about themselves too much, and that is a problem no matter how “transparent” or “authentic” or “connected” it makes you sound, because repeated appeal to self has the de facto effect of making the preaching task about the preacher and not about the message.

Out of a sense of fairness and in full-disclosure, I don’t particularly like to talk about myself from the pulpit.  There are preachers who do this very well, but I’m not one of them!  When I hear someone with this ability to make their story a powerful testament to the gospel, I can appreciate it, but I’m not very good at it.  But more often than not, when I hear a preacher talking about himself, I start to get a “rubbed the wrong way” kind of feeling–especially if the personal story is the central focus of the sermon and is not being used just to support a particular move within the sermon.

But here is my question…those of you who are hearers of sermons (and if you’re a preacher, I hope you listen to sermons), how do you feel about a sermon when the preacher talks about himself?  Feel free to discuss under my somewhat incomplete and tongue-in-cheek poll.

 

See

Ron Allen, http://www.amazon.com/Ronald-J.-Allen/e/B001IXMTT8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1354554217&sr=1-1

David Buttrick, Homiletic Moves and Structures, Fortress Press (1987).  http://www.amazon.com/Homiletic-Moves-Structures-David-Buttrick/dp/0800620968