Preaching comparisons represent a hazard of the vocation. Finding your preaching voice can take time. Years in fact. Patient congregations allow for the pretentious preaching. By that I mean pretending to preach like [insert the young preacher’s icon]. Over time it is too exhausting unless of course one opts to simply memorize or read another persons’ sermon as their own. Don’t laugh. It happens more than anyone knows.
Recently we decided to post sermons preached at Snow Hill where I pastor and preach – and have so for the past 18 plus years. We have always recorded the sermons preached by anyone who fills the pulpit so that members, guests, and others could hear again. These recordings also give those who miss a week or more an opportunity to hear with the community, albeit later.
My resistance to posting our sermons – mine, staff, or guests – has largely turned on the matter of context. Let me explain. During one period of criticism I sat down with a family to learn that our music and my preaching were part of the reason for an interest to look elsewhere. We did not exclusively sing hymns. And, I did not preach like Billy Graham. Now there’s a news flash.
Upon further inquiry, it seemed that those steeped in revival preaching in fact prefer revival preaching for their regular diet. I find a distinction between old fashioned revival preaching and pastoral preaching. Not to be disingenuous, but growing up in my tribe I learned it is easy to preach the same sermons in different locations over the course of year than it is to work to maintain a connection with a local congregation, its peculiar needs, and its peculiarities week in and week out.
The increased number of celebrity preachers only exacerbate the problem. Inject the near arrogant assertions that a preacher self-identifies as one of the best to the sycophantic agreement of his or her faith community and you have the fertile soil for marketers to help propel said preacher to new heights. Incidentally, I know a friend who looked to publish his doctoral work. Good stuff too. A major publisher would only consider it if he had an outlet – read church – with at least 1000 people. Secure sales drives celebrity more than ability. Read Skye Jethani’s series.
Some of us may feel the whole process to be a bit tyrannical. Refugees are always in need of rescue. Which leads me to think about how the regular inclusion of how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling needs to be given opportunity to participate on the ground, or in the soil of human experience. Our sermons at Snow Hill often contain reminders that we should participate in the world, not long for an escape.
Next week Snow Hill will host representative from LINK as they bring the traveling documentary, The People’s Tour. Here is a description of the project,
The People’s Tour
The death of Kim Jong-il has brought renewed focus on North Korea. But too often that focus is dominated by concerns over nuclear weapons or security issues or on the attitudes of its recluse leaders. But despite changes at the top of the leadership in Pyongyang, the harsh reality of life for ordinary North Koreans goes on. The North Korean people are living under the most ruthless system of political repression ever assembled. They have suffered through humanitarian disasters, crippling poverty, chronic food shortages and a denial of even the most basic freedoms.
The People’s Tour will redefine the North Korea crisis by highlighting the suffering and stories of the North Korean people. We are promoting an approach to North Korea that will be defined and created by the North Korean people.
This spring, join the North Korean people’s struggle by learning more about this crisis and how you can get involved. Hosting a LiNK screening will provide you and your community with an opportunity to join the fight to resolve the unheard suffering of the North Korean people.
Join the movement. Fight for a common liberty.
We hope to have at least 50 people learn ways in which we may participate in the work involved in rescuing people from such a life. If you are in the area or within driving distance, consider joining us for the evening of Marc 8, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Last evening we did some of that soil work at Snow Hill. Dreaming of ways to bring the Good News of Jesus to bear in material reality shows up in meals, food boxes, conversations, and more. On the agenda is a soon coming Language Exchange for a hidden number of people who live in our area and need help with English. Some of us will view that as needing help with our Spanish – thus an “exchange.”
The context of our life together in the Tri-City area represents the soil of our lives. Sermons take shape and place here, not there. We learn from there what we may do here. And, we find ways to do there what we do here. A conservative theologian once damned all false antitheses. Maybe he should have uttered that judgment on preacher comparisons too.