The Evangelical Homiletics Society met in fall 2000 on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Oviedo, Florida, and professors and pastors delivered 20 papers
some heavy on the theoretical side, others on the practical. Each year I come away from these conferences with a heavier preaching toolbox. What follows is the second installment of my attempt to compile some of the more practical help gleaned from three of the papers (click here for part 1).
Preaching Toward Spiritual Formation
Guiding Believers in their Journey of Spiritual Formation and Empowering them in the Process of Life Transformation Glenn E. Myers Crown College, St. Bonifacius, Minnesota
Abstract: Preaching is a perfect platform for conveying spiritual information but not necessarily for engendering spiritual formation. Evangelical churches are filled with biblically literate individuals who are often quite wanting in their spiritual development. Thus we as preachers must be more intentional in the creation of sermons that not only inform our listeners but also address the question: How will this biblical message help form and transform their lives?
Glenn gives a helpful preview of the paper:
In this paper I have summarized three essential steps toward that process: reflection, response and routine. Reflection is the process by which members of the congregation personalize the biblical message and take ownership of its truths. Then opportunities for response
both during the service and throughout the week
enable them to walk out what they have learned. Finally, the establishment of spiritual disciplines
enables biblical truth to be fleshed out and woven into their very lifestyles.
Glenn believes a series of questions can help
stimulate the reflection process
What implications does this sermon have for my day tomorrow?
What is my first action step?
What needs to change in my thought-life?
Is there anything I am avoiding?
The following actions allow the congregation to respond to what they've heard from God's Word:
Asking individuals to write out a short prayer in the bulletin insert would allow them not only to respond immediately but also to take home a copy of that response as a reminder during the week.
Another option is to allow the congregation to create an action plan by writing down one or two challenges.
Glenn suggests that some hymns and contemporary choruses can be sung as a direct prayer-response to God's Word.
Solitude is the only routine emphasized in the paper.
Without solitude, any other practice that we begin, such as simplicity or service, will end up being pushed aside by the busyness of life. While modern evangelicals realize they should pray more and study God's Word regularly, because they lack the discipline of solitude they are unable to 'find' time for God.
Applying Truth to a Vitally Important Domain
Kenneth R. Bickel Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana
Abstract: Preachers bear responsibility for applying biblical truth to life. This paper asserts that relationships represent a vitally important domain of life. It calls preachers to think first of relationships
both their own and their listeners'
when applying truth. It also suggests six dominant spheres of relationships that preachers might consider.
Preachers and their Lord. The first relationship in which preachers should apply biblical truth is in their own relationship to their Lord.
As preachers study biblical texts in preparation for sermons and are exposed to various truths related to the nature of God and his work, they ought not think first about how this applies to their listeners but how it applies to themselves. Sermon preparation must be a devotional experience for preachers as well as a responsibility of their calling. It must be an avenue of spiritual formation as well as a professional duty.
Preachers and their flocks. As we study to understand and apply God's Word, Ken suggests,
Pastors should occasionally take stock of how they feel about their people. Has the pastor faced negative experiences to the point where he or she is consciously or unconsciously viewing the flock negatively? Pastors who begin to view their flocks negatively can begin to assume their listeners have little heart for God, little motivation for godly living, and little desire for ministry.
Ken describes the tone sermons can take coming from pastors who think this way about the people entrusted to their care.
Listeners and their relationships. The bulk of Ken's paper has to do with identifying the six spheres of relational life experienced by listeners.
Preachers should seek to suggest applications to their listeners that point directly to relationship issues since the quality of relationships represents a primary ingredient in an individual's quality of life. The idea is not that a preacher will seek to make application in each of the six spheres for each of the main truths presented. The suggestion is that preachers briefly give thought to each of the spheres, then follow the Holy Spirit as they decide which applications might be most appropriate for their audience.
Ken lists the following relationships:
With the Lord
With parents and children
With friends and fellow Christians
With co-workers and fellow students
The paper ends with examples of scriptural principles being applied to each of the six relational areas.
Preaching Spiritual Discipline
Kenton C. Anderson ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia
Abstract: Spiritual discipline is a biblical oxymoron. It has to do with one's spiritual identity and one's physical likeness. Preachers must encourage integration of these dual concerns in order to present each one perfect in Christ.
One of Kent's insights is his attempt to help us identify our congregants as to their allegiance either to the world or to Christ. To whom are they disciples? Kent writes on page 5,
The preacher first encourages an identity transformation that breaks the listener's belonging to the world and leads them to a new identity as one belonging to Christ.
There are four variations possible within this rubric, three of which fall short of the divine intention.
Keeping the following four possibilities in mind may help you apply God's Word to your hearers' current level of discipleship.
Kent concludes the paper with an appropriate challenge:
If 'spiritual discipline' is an oxymoron, it is in the best sense of the word. Preaching encourages both spiritual conversion and disciplined congruence. Perhaps this is the kind of spirituality Jesus had in mind when he sent his followers into all the world to 'make disciples' (Matthew 28:19). Perhaps this is the kind of discipline that preachers ought to practice.
As you pray, prepare, and preach to the people entrusted to your care, you may find these four categories a helpful way to apply God's Word to their particular lifestyle.
For information on the October 18-20, 2001, Evangelical Homiletics Society convention, click here.
Randal Pelton is pastor of The People's Church in Somerville, New Brunswick, Canada.