Discover more from Churchatopia
On Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned about Preaching
Last week I gave a couple of talks to two groups of students at Welch College. In this newsletter, I am sharing the content of one of those two talks.
September marked twenty years that I have been preaching. While I had given many devotions and lessons in different settings prior to that, I first did something like “preaching” at a nursing home in the fall of 2003, my first semester as a college student.
Twenty years have passed and I’m still doing it. That’s not nearly as long as most of the godly men I know. Perhaps my own formation in preaching has come just as much from listening to sermons as a congregant raised in the local church, as well as listening to many preachers online or in person in other settings, such as a college chapel service.
What have I learned? What am I still learning? I’ve tried to sum it up in the form of the list below. There’s more yet I could add, but these are some I tailored to a college-level preaching class. (I will likely publish a modified list later for a more general audience.) But here is the one I shared last week.
1-There’s a direct and powerful connection between your devotional life, marital health, and pulpit effectiveness.
2-Amazingly, your preaching gets better if you shepherd well and lead well.
3-Be clear about what expository preaching is and isn’t, especially concerning application.
4-You need quality reps to improve.
5-Have excellent notes, then use them less than you’d like to.
6-Your pauses say a lot.
7-Be judicious in your use of quotes and biblical languages.
8-Be precise and concrete.
9-Vocal health is underdiscussed and underrated.
10-The more you read and the more you “get out” the better.
More to come on this at a later date. In the meantime, what’s your biggest pieces of advice for preachers-in-training?
What I’m Reading (or rereading):
Morton Cooper, Stop Committing Voice Suicide.
Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond, The Archer and the Arrow: Preaching the Very Words of God.
W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman.
Quote of the Week:
In the late modern world, it’s common to see humanity as something to be crafted, a project awaiting creation. Our creatureliness gets sidelined, replaced by a “you can be anything you want” approach to life, set against the narrative backdrop of resisting outward conformity to some other standard of life. You must define yourself, goes the idea, even when it’s in opposition to whatever the past, your family, your society, or (increasingly) your biology says you are.
Meanwhile, the acids of postmodernity have eaten away at the idea that humanity has an essence, that there might be a givenness to things. Also lost is the idea that humanity has a general telos—an inherent purpose or supreme goal to which we strive.
The spread of a technocratic understanding of the world whereby we make the world we want, rather than work with and cultivate the world as it is, puts us in situations previous generations would find incomprehensible: the logic of rectifying the “injustice” of biological men not being able to give birth, or removing healthy body parts in the name of health to accommodate someone’s self-perception as disabled or belonging to a different gender.
Trevin Wax, “Today’s Defining Question: What is a Human?”
Common Grace Wisdom: On the Double Standards in University Life
In the wake of Hamas’ heinous attacks on Israeli civilians, I’ve been following much of the news coverage of what is happening in that part of the world. I’ve been especially heartened by the careful coverage of The Free Press, one of my two favorite news sources. I especially appreciate their willingness as journalists to call on the mat the hypocritical, double standards at major U.S. colleges and universities when it comes to student groups and other affiliated constituencies voicing justifications of these attacks.
On the one hand, administrators were more than happy to squelch free speech in recent years when faculty or students questioned the management of the pandemic, including the efficacy of masking mandates and vaccines. They were more than willing to silence and punish dissenters expressing concerns over trans-men in women’s sports or the legitimacy of concepts like “systemic racism.”
Now, these same administrators have become free-speech absolutists. At worst, many of them have remained completely silent while those under their charge celebrate and cheer the atrocities of Hamas. Here is how Jacob Savage describes this about-face:
Liberals and centrists seem to have paid attention to conservative boycotts of Bud Light and Target. Then came the scandal surrounding Ibram Kendi’s antiracism center at Boston University. Having burned through over $20 million, he now faces an inquiry from the university. Kendi’s disgrace cracked the window—and the horrific responses to the Hamas attacks opened the door.
And yet it is only now—after all the histrionic and outraged statements about #MeToo and BLM and Ukraine and Roe v. Wade—that universities are discovering the virtue of institutional neutrality.
“Our university embraces a commitment to free expression,” Harvard president Claudine Gay said of the pro-Hamas protests on campus. “That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous.” This is, to put it gently, a newfound commitment. Just four years ago, the institution she runs sided with the illiberal mob, and opened an investigation into a law school dean after he joined Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense.
“I do not foresee that I will be issuing statements on political, geopolitical, or social issues that do not directly impact the core mission of our University,” Northwestern President Michael Schill wrote in a public message to senior university leadership….
Maybe, just maybe, a new equilibrium can be reached. Maybe we can agree that political litmus tests for employment are bad, that requiring DEI statements is bad, that not every organization and every individual needs to comment on every political issue.
These issues are complex, but what shouldn’t be complex is that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Even many progressive journalists see the hypocrisy in what is happening at major colleges and universities. Perhaps the donors who see what their funding is enabling will think twice before making their next multi-million-dollar donation.
Just a few of the related pieces I’ve been reading with great interest:
Can a Donor Revolt Save American Universities? by Jacob Savage
When the Misinformation Comes from Inside the House by Bari Weiss and Oliver Wiseman
Young Jews Brace for ‘a Day of Global Jihad’ by Maya Sulkin.
On My Mind: Recovery
I’m recovering from an outpatient procedure I had on Friday. My apologies for this newsletter being a bit briefer than usual. Or, for others, “You’re welcome!”