Read a very interesting blog about preaching, from Bob Hyatt. It sounds as if much of what they do at Evergreen Life in worship is similar to what I’ve sensed God leading me to in preaching at NFC. We’ve been working on writing down some of our philosophy and assumptions for what we’re doing in worship; here’s part of a draft I’ve written about our sharing and preaching elements of our service.
Each week, we try to have some kind of participation in the form of verbal sharing from the congregation. Because we are all ministers, because worship is active and not passive, because we want each person to be engaged and looking for how God might what to speak through each one, we try to do something each week that encourages simple vocal participation.
Questions are the easiest way to do it. Open ended questions based on experience work better than factual questions that assume biblical or spiritual knowledge. Simple is better than complex. Anything which gets people to speak helps, because it engages the person in an active way and helps the person grow in the comfort level of speaking in the room. Often we’ve invited people to read a passage of scripture during the week, and asked them to share on Sunday what stood out to them in the passage.
Our goal in worship is for each person to contribute what the Holy Spirit has in mind for them to contribute. Sharing helps people grow in comfort and expectation that all bring something to share.
Preaching has been a part of worship for so long, that we often don’t question its purpose in worship. But it’s an important “why” question to ask, so that the message accomplishes a purpose, rather than simply be a ritual.
Preaching obviously has a teaching element, to help us know and deepen our appreciation for the bible. Preaching has a vision element, helping us picture possible futures that God has for NFC. But the overarching purpose of preaching, like all other elements of our worship service, is to lead each person to a place of transforming encounter with the living Jesus. When preaching is at its best, it leads one into an encounter with God, fully prepared and ready to receive what Christ has. It leads each person to God, who brings about changes in behavior and direction.
The message ought not to be used for emotional manipulation or just to bring about a visible decision. The message expounds scripture in a way that guides us to examine a particular facet of our lives in the presence of God. It’s not the preacher or the experience that brings change, it’s the encounter and empowerment of God.