I recently heard another preacher suggest keeping a database of the sermons you’ve preached; themes, verses, a short summary.
What a great idea!
I decided to follow his advice, and compiled a database of my sermons from the last year and a half. It was eye opening.
First, it helped me to see my pet subjects. It amazed me how often I came back to two themes: trusting in the character of God, and finding meaning and purpose in Christ.
It also helped me to see some of my blind spots. Here are 3 things that I’m determined to address in my next year and a half of preaching…
Directly appeal to non-Christians.
Looking over my sermons, I realised – with some shame – that I hardly ever directly addressed non-Christians. Sure, I tried to make my sermons meaningful and interesting for them, but I never really spoke to them.
This was brought home to me when I listened to a sermon by the New Zealand-based Reuben Munn. It was about the subject of rest. About halfway through, very naturally and quite disarmingly, he paused and said something along the lines of, “If you’re here today, and you’re weary, and in need of rest, I want you to know that you can find rest for your souls in Christ.”
It was simple, and not the slightest bit weird, and it made me think, “why do I never do that?”
Speak about theological concepts in a less abstract, more grounded way.
I like theology, and that passion tends to find its way into my sermons.
When I look back at my sermons, though, it’s clear to me that I have too often attempted to present theology in a novel way. I think this is part and parcel of being a recent theological graduate, and something many of us recently former students need to learn to shed.
I would like to speak about the doctrines we find in scripture more simply and directly, without feeling the pressure to dress them up.
Illustrate more broadly.
When I moved on from the mostly young adult church of my early 20’s to the cradle to grave church I pastor in now, so many of my sermon illustrations were totally off-key. I remember quoting from The Office in one of them, and predictably crashing and burning.
I thought I had learnt my lesson after a few months, but looking at my recent sermons I see that my illustrations are still quite narrowly related to my age and stage as a young parent. Sometimes this works; you do speak out of the life you live, after all.
But overall, I want to work harder at using illustrations that connect with a much wider group of people, and don’t exclude some.