“Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.” – Ecclesiastes 12: 9
When pastor’s introduce themselves to new people coming to the church, the introduction usually revolves around education, prior experience and a brief timeline of events. And that makes perfect sense. But we seldom hear the pastor’s view or feelings toward preaching/teaching each Sunday. I unpacked for you in my last column my background as well as some of my general views and priorities. So this week, I would like to give you some of my thoughts on preaching/teaching, since that is the major job responsibility for the lead pastor.
Let me start by saying I love to teach. But even though I swing for the fences every Sunday, my goal is not be a great teacher but to be an effective teacher. I believe God can and will use me, especially when I am reminded and humbled by the fact that God even spoke through a donkey in the Old Testament.
I don’t view myself as a gifted orator. I am reminded of Mark 8: 31-32, where Jesus is teaching the elders, chief priests and the scribes. Verse 32 says “He spoke plainly … I believe we benefit when we speak plainly, in terms people can understand.” God loves you. Jesus Christ died for you. He can change your life. He did it for me. He will do it for you.”
Jesus also talked about speaking clearly: “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.” (John 16:25). Jesus was talking about a time when figures of speech would be set aside in favor of plain, open, clear communication. I believe that time is now.” I want our messages to be inspiring and life-giving. I love to ignite the spark of hope in the unbeliever’s heart by telling them that Jesus loves them and died so they might be forgiven. I try to tell them that Jesus will save them from their sins and they can live a richer, fuller life in Him.
I also need no reminder that this is not my sermon. I don’t own it. The truth I teach is not my truth. It is God’s message to God’s people He is calling to further His kingdom. And even though I tell stories about my family, my life, our struggles and our walk with Christ, the message is about Him and for Him.
I never tire of talking about the real, compelling Jesus. And I love to tell others about Him. This Jesus loved sinners. He came to heal the sick, to help the hurting, and to restore the lost. He made losers winners. Tough men dropped everything to follow Him. By observing His life and listening to His teaching, we too can learn how to really live, right side up in an upside-down world. Who would not want to talk about that?
In my teaching, I want people to want to care for the kind of people Jesus cared for—the marginalized, the weak, the hated, and social outcasts of this world. I want our teaching at Northstar to be part of the process of learning how to love others. And in the same vein, I want to use the pulpit to transform the pew. We want to transform lives in a way that trains, equips and releases people to do the work of ministry.
The transition to multi sites has changed my teaching schedule and system. It requires me to stick to my schedule and it has refined my preparation and delivery of the Sunday message. While having multiple sites does have challenges and limitations, I have not found it to be limiting in my Sunday teaching.
Lastly, the teaching subject that creates the most debate; the length of the sermons. The longer the better, after all, we cannot expect Northstar members and regular attenders to remain healthy and put them on a preaching starvation diet. When we talk more than 45 minutes the teaching team and I have a spiritual chest bump. Just kidding. I try to be faithful to the people who attend our services and if they are honest, they have a hard time hanging with us for forty minutes, much less an hour. I’d be concerned I was punishing people by speaking so long. My position is the sermon should be as short or long to make the point. I view 30-35 minutes as my sweet spot.
So in every message I preach, I strive to do these things. The words and the topics will vary greatly, but as long as I focus on bringing the gospel to God’s people, it will accomplish what it needs to.