To all the preaching pastors out there:
I know what you do is hard because I’ve done it before. I’ve studied and been trained in preaching, and have had the opportunity to do it here and there, though I must quickly point out that I’ve never shouldered the burden of preaching weekly.
But I know enough to know it’s hard work. You literally pour your heart and soul into your study and preparation each week. You wrestle with the text – its meaning, its context, its implications and applications. You feel the weight of the responsibility to bring God’s Word to God’s people as they gather to worship. I share your high view of preaching.
Like I said, I’ve done it before. But now I’m the church member who is listening and benefitting from your labor. I have a job, some kids, a busy life. And there’s a sad truth that we need to discuss.
That sermon that you wrestled with, that kept you up at night, that you pour so much of yourself into… well… most of us will forget most (if not all) of it by tomorrow. And that really, really stinks. I hate that I’ll forget it (especially when you hit that proverbial home run). I don’t want to forget it.
So I’m writing you with one simple request: Help us remember it.
I’ll do my part by taking notes, so I can try to hang on to at least some of the message. But I’m asking you do take a part in helping me remember.
How can you do that? That’s a good question worth pondering at some length. The answer(s) will depend on your context — each church and community will be a bit different. With that disclaimer…
Here are five suggestions to help us remember:
1. Let me hear it again if I want to. Hopefully your sermons are recorded and made available somehow to those that missed them or want to hear them again. You can burn them to CDs or you can set them up as a podcast where they can be easily downloaded. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve probably got a young person in the church who can help.
2. Give me a summary. I suggest setting up a blog on the church website where you (or someone on your staff) can post a sermon summary each week. The level of detail is up to you – but at least highlight the key points. I would love for you to build on this further…
3. Help me re-visit your material. As I said above, I try to take notes, but I miss some things. (I’m punching my notes out on a phone for crying out loud!) Use that blog to help me out. Post the “money” quotes from your message. If you had a really helpful quote from some writer, use that in the blog (with proper attribution, obviously). The same could be set for a chart or diagram. As a general rule of thumb, if something makes it onto the screen while you preach, it should make it onto a blog. After all, we know somebody typed it out already and organized it – now it’s just a matter of uploading it onto the blog!
4. Give me some direction to explore in depth. Are there certain articles or books that would help me go deeper? Sure there are! Why not list a few of these resources so I can check them out? Provide suggestions for further reading or study.
5. Give me some discussion points. Help me initiate a discussion with my friends or family by providing some starter questions. Many small groups would benefit from having 3-5 questions that they could use to discuss the sermon. Ideally at least some of these questions would drive us in the direction of making application of this message (and this passage of Scripture) to our lives. Ask questions that begin with “how” or “why.”
I think that last point could be significant. As you’re neck deep in the text and in your preparation, spend a few extra minutes considering these kinds of questions and then make them available to us. The conversations that could result might really help the message get worked out in the community and get us thinking and talking about how we could apply it to our lives. And isn’t that one of your chief goals in this whole enterprise?
I have deep respect and gratitude for the work you do. That’s why I’m so keen for your labor to bear fruit and make an impact.