Monday, November 28, 2016

A New Preaching Experiment

Sermons shape God’s people. The preacher works with the text as the text works in him. The preacher adapts ancient words to modern ears, giving it volume, cadence, and voice. The preacher welcomes the congregation into that work of formation. For God's word is public good.

The pastor crafts the sermon to shape the people in partnership with God. The preacher studies and takes notes, outlines and edits, polishes and delivers. He implants truth and sends the people home. And God causes the growth.

Sadly, measuring said growth over the years has proven difficult. I suspect people have a better understanding of the biblical text and certain redemptive threads as a result of my preaching. But I cannot claim to have saved a marriage, stopped an addiction, started a revival, or rekindled any fading flames of evangelistic zeal. Nor have I seen God provoke many such acts through me.

So I'm toying with my methods again. I've already changed styles and added rehearsals. I've toyed with various presentation media. I reduced my minute count and number of sermons in a given series. Here and there I've received an "attaboy" or "I thought you were going to preach shorter" comment. Mostly, though, these tweaks have minimal effect.

It's time for another change. My latest iteration of preaching will include a subscription, offered in 4- to 8-week installments. I call it pre|form.

pre|form is a sermon enrichment experiment. It invites select people into the sermon-crafting process to deepen the impact of a series of sermons. pre|form does not elevate preaching as much as preparation and participation. The hypothesis is simple: Those with greater investment in the sermon will reap greater benefit from it.

The idea burst from the pages of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool). Studies of educators who “primed the pump” and invited their students to test-drive classroom materials proved far more productive at mastering the material. Preparation and personal investment formed them. By receiving prompted material, physics students were taught to “think like physicians” rather than think like students. 

I want people to "think like sermon-makers" rather than religious spectators. And I want God to cause the growth.

No comments: