I've spent the last 2 days pouring over plans for what to preach next. It's not as easy as it sounds. True, all of the messages should come from the same book, but if I preach the whole Bible every Sunday, we'll be here the whole week. And since, unlike Paul, I've never demonstrated an ability to raise the dead, I'm not permitted to preach sermons that long. (See Acts 20:7-12). So, I have to pray through what parts to bring out each Sunday.
I've found that preaching clumps of Scripture works well. That way, I have a defense when someone thinks that I picked on them specifically in the sermon. That was just where we were that day, I didn't just decide to hit you with it. Now, if the shoe fits, wear it. If I preached on gossip, and you have been gossiping, recognize that perhaps God is speaking to you about your sin. When I am trying to find what to preach, I don't want to take what someone has shared with me that week and turn it into a sermon, and have you afraid to talk with your pastor because he'll preach at you on Sunday, and tell the world what your problems are.
I also have to avoid being irrelevant. I could preach about the evils of witchcraft, but most of you are well aware of the evils of witchcraft and blatant satanism. I could preach not to take the mark of the beast, but since nobody is trying to make you take it, that's not really something that will impact. Far more important is to help us understand how our society, and too often us, are embracing basic aspects of witchcraft and satanism. We find them entertaining in our movies and tv shows, we find fortune tellers funny rather than evil, we will read our horoscopes or look to other places for truth other than God. We know not to take the mark of the beast, but we don't have the willpower to fight off the mark of culture, where we just have to have the same things everyone else does. How will we stand for Christ in the face of persecution when we can't even resist a TV commercial or a sales circular? So, certain things need more emphasis.
Then there is my biggest challenge (at least I think it's my biggest). I am consistently overwhelmed by the depth of our ignorance of a Christ-centered life. This starts in my home, and covers most of our 'normal' Christian experience in America. And I want to communicate our need to live a life that is radically different from what we see around us. So, I tend to preach very heavy. I have a greater tendency to speak of the challenge, of the distance yet to go, then to try and bring encouragement for where we are. I have difficulty with being happy with the first mile of a 100 mile journey.
So, what I have to try and do, as best possible, is preach things that both challenge us and encourage us, that you understand are relevant without tuning out and thinking I'm picking on you. I have to preach just specifically enough that you get something useful out of it, without tailoring it only to one group, and preach long enough to do all this without going too long and losing you.
See why this is a prayer-based activity?
Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!
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