The motto of the city of Glasgow is "Lord, let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of Thy word and the praising of Thy name." It is attributed to St Mungo who is patron of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and whose tomb you can visit (the whole building is well worth seeing) at Glasgow Cathedral.
Last night I attended a group of St Silas preachers who speak at the 9 am services. You are expected to present a short outline of your preach and it will then be critiqued by the other members. It was a fun evening and great to spend time with some folk who I have not spent much time with previously. I was expecting the critiquing part to be slightly harder than it was but maybe we just all had good plans yesterday!
There are a number of things that I try and focus on as I prepare to preach.
- Firstly, and most importantly, I try to seek God's voice as I prepare. For me this is isn't about any booming voices from the heavens, I simply try to approach the passage prayerfully and then often just write without allowing myself to think too much.
- I seek to remain faithful to the text - not bringing something from it that is completely not there. I feel that there are times when we misuse scripture and with the responsibility that comes with preaching do not want to become a model for this.
- I also think it is important to try and understand why the passage is in the bible, why it was written, by whom and for whom - as all of this will help when seeking to understand and apply the passage to the real life situations we all encounter now.
- I try and give examples as to where what I am saying fits into my life. I really feel that a preacher must show that there is a need for them to hear the message also - that they are not standing over the congregation telling them things that they them self haven't heard.
- I then try to pose questions that will allow the congregation to figure out for themselves where the passage applies to their own lives. I also try and bring encouragements from the passage.
- I try and make it enjoyable. I love hearing stories and anecdotes which tie a talk together when someone preaches, so I try to use them when I do.
I'm sure there are many more things that I do that I haven't written here. Of course the most important thing is to remain faithful to God's Word - many of the other things are about style and presentation, but I do feel that they are also important. As I wrote about here, on Sunday I attended a service where I felt that the sermon wasn't very good. I was asked last night whether that was because I disagreed with what he said. Just to clear this up - no, I do not disagree with this and I apologise if in anyway the post made it seem as if I thought there could be any way that someone who didn't know Jesus ultimately wasn't living a "deluded life" or didn't need "bringing to their senses." What I found hard was the presentation. The message was true but was it really the right way to deliver it with so many unbelievers in the congregation?
I am sure there are many opinions on this and it would be great to hear them. Me personally - I believe that God can work in every situation and he may have used a message like that to touch someones heart and bring them to Him. But I believe that the overall presentation, as well as the harshness of the message may have been off putting. What, I believe, was missed was an opportunity to show God's love at the same time as what would happen to those who don't believe. The consequences - hell, death etc - which are all real and true, could have been presented as part of the same message that also preached love and forgiveness, second chance and life.
I hope that one day I will be tested in terms of how to deliver a sermon where the material is especially hard for some people to hear. My prayer is that I will continue to seek God in prayer, remain faithful to the text, and consider how it may be received by the listeners as I attempt to bring a faithful to the gospel, relevant and listenable to message. My prayer is also that this great city that I love will flourish on the preaching of God's word and that many more will come and praise His name.