I am not the greatest preacher. Not even close. I work very hard to make sure my messages are as accurate and correct as I possible can with what knowledge and understanding is available to me during my preparation. It is very important for me to be biblically and theologically accurate. There was a time in my life that I focused so hard on being Biblically and theologically practical that I wound up teaching things that were wrong and at times very wrong ironically in five easy steps. To put it succinctly in the past I would strive to communicate what was practical correctly when I should have been working to communicate what was correct practically. Here are five things that have helped me to become better at preaching what is correct in a practical manner.
- I stopped listening to pop pastors and began listening to theologians. Good theologians are wrestling with real issues in real time. While many “pop pastors” are checking out the latest tattoos, hair styles and frames for their glasses theologians are pouring hours of study into an issue or a subject so that practitioners of theology can have solid confident biblical answers.
- I stopped listening to sermons and began listening to audio books. Audio books take the time to get into the subtle nuances and details of an issue. Pastoral ministry needs a theology as nuanced as the people it is serving.
- I stopped crafting silver bullet messages. Silver bullet messages like to take very complicated people issues and fix them in 60 minutes with a proof text. Usually the pastor creates a false world for the first 45 minutes were only theology exists not people. After crafting the perfect scenario he then applies it to imperfect people in order to cure them of their “werewolf problem”. (I think it is important here to remind the reader that werewolves much like worlds were only theology exists do not exist.)
- I began to realize that my own personal tensions and difficulties were welcomed guests at the sermon prep table. Rather than crafting spineless sermons that ran away from my own faults, doubts and fears pretending as if they did not exist I became more honest. I turned away from the “leave it to beaver” sermon prep and began to incorporate those struggles and imperfections into my own discipleship story. Often time these are wonderful authentic ways of showing people that Im just one beggar showing others beggars were to find bread.
- Life preaches and what seems like random chaos is just practical waiting to happen. As a father I began to realize how impractical being a parent, husband and pastor was but yet in the midst of that impracticality I was some how learning more about God, life and myself than I had ever learned in school or a sermon. I needed a new definition of practical. So now I spend my time trying to encourage people to live the Christian mess so they might learn that practical will happen.
Practical is not exactly something that can easily be copied, pasted, shared or googled. As a communicator we need to speak clearly, authentically and plainly about how much trail blazing and pioneering goes on in our own disciple lives. We can teach the incredibly impractical reality of what it means to follow Jesus clearly. Who said “practical” has to be easy to understand Ive been a Christian husband, dad and pastor for a while now and I still barley know what Im doing. Jesus said “follow me” in one sense thats just about as practical as theology gets but in another sense it is the most complicated and difficult thing to do in the world.