Preach Magazine Issue 1 - Creativity and innovation in preaching - Page 41

FEATURE Here they are: 1. The Stream of Rest A writer once wrote, I’ve forgotten who: ‘When I take a walk, angels talk to me’. I’ve found that to be true in both writing and preaching. If I’m stuck in my studies, I go for a midday jog. I find, almost universally, that this little practice jostles my blood-flow enough to bring new ideas to mind. In fact, I’ve found over the years that sometimes my study is best served by leaving it. Receiving adequate rest and exercise is like ‘sharpening the saw’ to cut down the tree – sure, you can work really hard with a dull blade. But you could work more quickly and effectively if you stepped away from the tree, and sharpened the axe. For me, exercise is a form of rest from my study – it sharpens the blade. When I return, I’m ten times more effective than I was when hacking away. Unfortunately, many pastors neglect their personal health in the name of serving the church. But how well is the church served by an overworked axe? If you want to keep your preaching fresh, you need to be refreshed yourself and that means taking care of the body God has given you. 2. The Stream of Worship It’s a rule for me that if I’ve not been personally worshipping the Lord throughout the week, it’s impossible for me to encourage others toward worship on Sunday morning. Preaching is always a personal matter – you will always reflect your growth, or lack thereof, from the pulpit. As Martyn Lloyd Jones has once said, ‘Preaching is logic on fire.’ If there’s no fire in your belly, Jeremiah-style, your preaching won’t be fresh. If your growth is stagnant, your sermons will be stagnant as well. This doesn’t mean that at the end of a difficult week, you try to eke out some spiritual sustenance from your time in the study – no. Study time and worship LWPT8173 - Preach Magazine - Issue 1 v3.indd 41 time are like oil and water. Carving out daily time to read Scripture (other than the texts you’re preaching on) and prayerfully responding will always show itself in your sermon, whether you know it or not. Remember: your congregation can only grow as mature as you are. And if you haven’t matured in the last week in Christlikeness, neither will they. If you want to keep your preaching fresh, you need to spend time away in worship. 3. The Stream of Relationships While it might seem ideal to acquire fresh perspectives by being on the mountaintop of personal study all week, the truth is pastoring real people coincides with preaching in a way that is striking, and new. If you haven’t spent time with people in your congregation in the last few weeks – significant time – don’t expect to know how to preach to them. Preaching and pastoring are like two oars in a rowing boat; if you only have one, you’ll just go in circles. Often the reason I’m at a dead-end on Saturday morning is because I have no relational wells to draw on from my pastoral experiences. But when I spend time listening to people – their real lives, their fears, their dreams, their struggles – I don’t have a difficult time taking Haddon Robinson’s suggestion of sitting them in an imaginary circle in my office and saying: ‘So-and-so, how does this apply to you?’ If we’re to keep preaching fresh, we need to keep it relevant. And that means keeping it pertinent to the diversity of problems, sins and struggles which constantly assault our congregations. 41 4. The Stream of Study It’s an old Spurgeon adage that the preacher ‘ought to prepare a sermon with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.’ Whether that newspaper is paper or electronic, Spurgeon is correct: preachers need to stay fresh by staying in their culture. For me, I constantly find that my personal spiritual reading, novel reading, or cultural reading always results in fresh illustrations and applications to the current situation. Without these ‘newspapers’ in hand, I find my sermons become boring. Make it a habit of studying not just the scriptures, but the world they illuminate. Scripture is a lens, not simply a canvas – it is meant to be looked through, to see the reality that surrounds us from the correct perspective. The preacher who has his eyes set on the text and blinds himself to the world will constantly find his sermons lacking in freshness, because they’re lacking in reality. Instead, the preacher can take a lesson from Christ – use the flowers, and sparrows, and farmers of the twenty-first-century to illuminate the goodness and grandeur of God, their Creator. Nicholas McDonald Nicholas is an M.Div student at Gordon Conwell Theological seminary and youth/assistant teaching