Preaching. Where to start?
Jill Reay-Smith - Pastor Redhill Church ACT
Preaching is fun! We get to share the good news of Jesus with people, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us and using our life experiences, creativity, intellect, emotion and humour. Preaching can be powerful, life-giving, life-changing. But how do we know what to preach on? Where do we start?
As we stare at blank pages or scroll feverishly through our bible devotions app, it can be easy to complicate things and tie our mind in spiritual knots trying to discern what topic we have funny stories for, what bible passage the cool kids are reading at the moment or what sermon title is likely to get the most “likes”. But really, in our preaching prep what we’re generally looking for is the answer to this quite simple question: “Lord, what do you want to say to these people at this time?”
Let’s unpack that shall we?
Lord, what do you want to say?
We want to start with what HE is saying, rather than thinking about what we want to say then scrambling through the Bible looking for a verse to back us up! It starts with Him: In the beginning was the Word. So let’s start from there too!
What has He been bringing to our mind lately? Has a passage of Scripture jumped out at us? If we’ve been give a passage of Scripture to speak on, are there parts of the passage that particularly draw our attention? Are there words or phrases that make us want to dig deeper? By paying attention to what He is saying, we can preach His message rather than ours. And His version of the good news is always the best one to preach!
...to these people…
Preaching isn’t just a hobby to give spiritually-minded orators something to do. It has purpose to speak Truth into the hearts of people. When Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion on them, then from this place of compassion would teach, heal and deliver. We can ask Jesus to give us this heart of compassion for our listeners too.
As we prepare to preach we want to keep our listeners in our mind. We ask the Spirit to speak to us, but not just for our own personal thrill or comfort. We ask what He wants us to share. Who are these people in front of us? What does God want to say to them? What is the Lord doing among them and what does He want to ignite in them?
...at this time?
There will usually be a next time. When we preach we don’t need to worry about cramming in every funny life anecdote that relates to our theme. We don’t need to refer to every verse in the bible that’s relevant to our main point. And we really don’t need to show everyone every single thing we’ve learnt about the history of the Moabites. When we preach we have a short and sweet moment in time to share what we think God is saying. It won’t be the whole story, because His whole story is so big and deep and wide and complex that even in a whole lifetime of preaching we will only scratch the surface.
It can be tempting to try and get all our good bits in, but our preaching will be better if we’re willing to unclench our grip and leave some things for next time - and if they are things that God wants us to preach one day, then there will be a next time! There will always be more to say, so rather than try and squeeze it all in let’s choose one thing and say that one thing well.
Not all our preaching will be podcast-worthy. Not all our talks will end with tissue-box-emptying prayer ministry. Not all our jokes will land! But if we’re asking this simple question, we can be confident that His version of the good news is the one being preached. And no matter how slick or not-slick our oratory, His message is always on-point.