How can we, as preachers, approach our craft with the wisdom of Yo-Yo Ma and the genius of Bach in order to better engage our listeners?
There is a temptation, I feel, during seasons like Lent, Holy Week, or Advent, to lose our own way of communicating God's truths, in favor of covering all of our theological bases. We sometimes wish to be right more than we wish to be ourselves in the pulpit. One can do both. But it all depends on the words we choose.
Conversational preaching can mean many things for preachers. But, scholars of language have studied this topic and identified several necessary features that distinguish conversation from other kinds of speech. One obvious quality of conversation is that there is more than one participant. And while this may sound outlandish in a sermon, the the truth is, you already have more preaching partners than you realize.
Here’s the truth many clergy have shared with me: they are afraid to preach about issues of public concern. They know their sermons should in some way address things like racism, homophobia, climate change, sexism, economic issues, or hatred of foreigners, for example. But fear holds them back, keeps them quiet, and muzzles their prophetic voice. How can you preach when you are afraid?
The “M” word consistently makes preachers squirm, perhaps because it’s so wrapped up in our livelihood and the sustainability of the church. But money impacts so much more than our salaries and budgets. It’s a critical influence in nearly every aspect of a parishioner’s life. So our silence on matters of finance may be hurting the very ones we wish not to discomfort.