On Monday 18th January, my church began a new thing:
I've only preached* once and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was the penultimate week of my summer holiday, which is always much valued by any teachers, and I'd spent the previous five weeks preparing and panicking about what I would say. For some reason, ten years of standing up in front of children and teaching hadn't prepared me for 12 minutes of standing up in front of adults and preaching. Then the aftermath was disastrous too. I'd 'given' so much of myself into that 12 minute sermon that I couldn't get much energy to start the term right – and it was about the worst start to an academic year I ever made.
So obviously I'm not a natural preacher.
I was really interested as to what would be said. Preaching is not the most fashionable of activities, so in this world of blogging and Twitter how does or should it fit in. Bishop Andrew of Aston (Birmingham, UK) was leading the session. He himself is said to preach about five times a week, so he should know a thing or two… Well – I tweeted my notes using the hashtag #preachforum and here they are:
- Bishop Andrew of Aston about to speak at #preachforum – wonder how this will affect my teaching?
- Apparently Spurgeon once preached a sermon in his sleep, his wife wrote down the main points and gave him the outline next am #preachforum
- Mark Earey (a regular preacher at St. John's) #preachforum hands out feedback forms for the congregation after a sermon. Ah – the backchannel in church…
- SEEA – state, explain, example (as in give one), apply #preachforum
- Bishop Andrew says the idea of children growing up on boring, irrelevant teaching makes him frustrated and angry. #preachforum
- Preachers don't clone ourselves – variety is important for the user. #preachforum
- Why is preaching important? Very few occasions when people can give a talk in society. #preachforum
- Basic convictions about nature of God are key to preaching. Otherwise it's just arrogance. #preachforum
- How do you measure what happens to a sermon? (my suggestion – use Google Moderator). Bishop Andrew – look at the long term. #preachforum
- Revival is linked to prayer and preaching – St. Dominic, St Francis of Assisi, Wycliffe, Wesley, Charles Simeon, Billy Graham. #preachforum
- Preaching is an antidote for advertising #preachforum
- 7 images of preacher: herald, sower, ambassador, steward of God's household, shepherd, workman, priest or bridge buillder. #preachforum
- Preaching: stick to one point, keep on track, refresh old commentaries, reach for the Bible first. #preachforum
- Preaching: don't preach your pet subject, don't tell jokes, don't overdo personal anecdotes, don't rely on Powerpoint #preachforum
- Preaching: use humour, especially self-deprecating, so that the preacher isn't put on a pedestal #preachforum
- Preaching: don't just prepare the sermon; prepare yourself. #preachforum
- Preaching: don't circle round the runway at the end of the sermon. Think about the user's response. #preachforum
- Preaching: don't preach to impress; preach to inspire. #preachforum
- Story and narrative is very important to preaching. #preachforum
What came across to me the most was that
Preaching still has a place in society – they are very few other opportunities to just give a talk on something. Yet in church it happens every week and can be the starting point for interesting dialogue. In addition preaching can be an antidote for the highly consumerist messages that are given constantly through advertising in the media.
Preaching is very separate from teaching – my own skill has to be teaching. I love the dialogue of a good lesson. The interaction between student and pupil. But I can appreciate that preaching has it's place too. The exposition of a positive message; the declaration of truth.
Success of preaching is measured in the long term – here I think preaching is very similar to teaching. While the backchannel in the classroom is very useful, the true success of a teacher is what your students are up to in 20 years time. Just as the quality of the preaching is measured by the long term life of the congregation, not just stewing over the sermon during Sunday lunch.
*preached – although I'm often tempted to say 'praught'