Long before I began taking classes leading to ordination, I fantasized about what it would be like to proclaim the Gospel. Some people might call this “vain imaginings”. They might be right, but I was interested in the message I could bring to people.
Well, it’s been 18 months since I took a call, and a self-evaluation is in order.
Proclaiming the Gospel every Sunday is very difficult. I thought it would be easy, but the opposite is the case.
I have made the following errors in preaching:
- Mistaking intellectual titillation for proclamation. That is, if I learned something about the history, traditions, Greek or Hebrew, or the literary style of a passage, I thought this would provoke deeper faith in the hearers
- Having an axe to grind. I have been through many denominations and movements as a Christian, and some of the resentment I felt toward their theological errors worked itself into the sermon and poisoned it
- Having a chip on my shoulder. In the first year, I was trying to prove that I was qualified to be in the pulpit. Overstatements, provocative thoughts, accidental heresy 😦 , even raising my voice were the outworking of my effort to prove I was ‘good enough’ to be there.
- Replacing clichés for the gospel. These phrases had a lack of depth, but I was determined to bring Christ into the picture. I can’t tell you how many times I used the word “forever” or “Jesus died for you”
- Overcomplicating the sermon. I wanted to put everything I learned into the proclamation. If you have never seen a group of people be confused before, this is the way to go!
I have been very fortunate to have a forgiving and grace-filled community to lead. Just as a doctor has a ‘practice’, because s/he is always improving, so it is with the pastor.
Here are a couple of recommendations for recovering from these mistakes:
- Theology is for Proclamation by Gerhard Forde – In this work, Forde talks about the ‘Preached God’ and the ‘God not preached’. Systematic theology, exegesis and history are the God not preached
- Glenn L. Monson’s blog, Law and Gospel Everywhere: http://gluthermonson.blogspot.com/ He also has a great book that leads one through lectionary preaching; Afflicting the Comfortable and Comforting the Afflicted
- The Holy Spirit. Ask Him to guide you back to proclamation. Ask Him to help you see the law/gospel couplets in a passage. Ask Him to help you see Christ in the passage. Otherwise, you will wear out your brain trying to figure things out. These are God’s people, ask HIM to feed HIS sheep