When you preach, what do your listeners learn about God? Are there any subconscious or “embedded” beliefs that sneak into your sermons without your awareness?
If your experience is like mine, you’ve never preached in a political and cultural climate as volatile and unpredictable as the one we face in the U.S. right now. How do we preach the unifying love of Christ when many are divided? How do we preach peace in the face of vitriol? How do we preach dignity when displays of disrespect are paraded as badges of honor?
It put the holy fear of God in my heart to realize I had the ability to perform the role of a preacher and be believed and trusted when I shouldn't be. I had skills at the ready to inflate my knowledge of scripture, embellish its presentation to appeal to certain people, or protect myself with silence. So what would guide me to ensure I wouldn't perform as a preacher, but enter the pulpit as a preacher of integrity regardless of the stakes?
I haven't laughed so hard in ages as I disclosed my own worst foibles and heard from my colleagues about theirs! Rather than reveal our "worst" sermon (which for all of us had been blessedly erased from our memories; God is merciful!) we on the panel revealed three of our biggest mistakes and what we learned from them. Here are my "Top Three."
Ending a sermon with “Amen” is both redundant and ill-fitting with the purpose of a sermon. In truth, though, most preachers aren’t worried about these technicalities when they finish with “Amen.” They simply don’t know how else to conclude. Consider these five types of conclusions for a more effective close instead.
“What we believe leads us to what we must reject. Our “Yes” is the foundation for our “No.” What we confess as our faith leads to what we confront. Therefore, we offer the following six affirmations of what we believe, and the resulting rejections of practices and policies by political leaders which dangerously corrode the soul of the nation and deeply threaten the public integrity of our faith. We pray that we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.” From Reclaiming Jesus