Up until very recently, I was in pastoral ministry. I pastored a micro-church in the Ottawa Valley. (For the unfamiliar micro churches are essentially the opposite of mega churches. Definitions vary, but generally, churches that have 50 or fewer in weekly attendance can be considered micro.) It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Some of it was great, some of it was…not. Now, however, at the end of my time there, I wanted to take some time and share some thoughts on the experience.
Part 2: Preaching
One of the if not THE favourite part of ministry for me is preaching. Now don’t misunderstand me, I love just about all parts of pastoral work. I love praying with people, discipling people, meeting people, and sharing the Gospel with people. The pulpit, though, is where I really feel at home. I love taking the word of God and explaining and applying its truths to a modern life context.
Preaching is not only my favourite part of ministry, it’s also one of the most important aspects of any church’s ministry. According to Thom Rainer’s new book, preaching is the number one reason people land in a church. Learning that from Rainer’s research wasn’t a surprise for me, and it wasn’t news. That’s a lot of pressure on a first-time pastor. Thankfully, I love preaching and I really loved doing it every week. I preached close to 150 times in my first three years of ministry. I learned a lot. Here is some of that.
- Don’t tell jokes. Ok, that’s not really true. Jokes and humour can be an effective way to make a point memorable. The problem comes when the crowd is small. Our church was about 30 adults on a good Sunday. Humour is a funny thing; it’s easier to make a larger crowd laugh than a smaller one. With a smaller crowd, people tend not to laugh as much or as loud. When you know a joke is funny (not that all of them are) and no one laughs, it affects the rest of your delivery and takes a second to get back on point. In smaller crowds, unless you know everyone’s going to laugh, skip the jokes.
- Keep it personal. Here’s another one that’s partial to smaller crowds. Be personal. Don’t be afraid to show your own shortcomings. We pastors are not ‘finished’ Christians by any stretch. We are all still in need of the same Grace now, as pastors, as we were before we became believers. The sermon isn’t the place for airing out all of your sin, but don’t be afraid to admit, when it’s true, that “I struggle with this too, I’m preaching to myself this morning.”
- Don’t overshare. I am now going to completely contradict myself and tell you not to keep it personal. Not exactly. There is a limit on things you should share from the pulpit. This is a fine line. But preaching is an exercise in proclaiming Biblical truth authoritatively, not a place to throw out a laundry list of your shortcomings.
- Don’t be afraid to go off script. I preach from a manuscript on my Kindle; there’s no substitute for prayer and preparation. Sometimes that prayer leads you to putting the manuscript aside and just preaching from the heart. It’s not good to make a habit of going off the cuff, but be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, and be faithful enough to do it once in a while.
I love preaching, and I greatly look forward to the opportunity to do it again. Next week, we’ll talk about another really important aspect of church ministry: mission.