Preach! preach! preach – The Heart Of Pastoral Work – Brief Article
Anthony B. Robinson
FOUR YEARS AGO the church I serve decided to offer a midweek worship service for those working in the downtown area. It’s a half-hour jazz service called “Feed Your Soul at Lunch Time.” Each service includes a homily. We’ve been working through a book of the Bible chapter by chapter.
When we began I was apprehensive about doing two different sermons each week (the Sunday sermon is based on the lectionary readings). I had often wondered how preachers of an earlier era managed to preach a couple of times on Sunday morning, then a different sermon on Sunday evening, and sometimes another on Wednesday. But I discovered that preparing for an additional sermon was the kind of work worth doing, and that preaching more often made my preaching both better and, in some ways, easier. Going to the well more often somehow seems to deepen the supply.
On the basis of this experience, I have no hesitation about encouraging pastors to preach more often. In our secular, pluralistic society where all sorts of messages are trumpeted at us all the time, a weekly worship service may be too thin a diet for Christians. We need more preaching and more worship in order to be more fully formed as Christians.
Our average attendance on Wednesdays is 90. Many of those who come on Wednesdays also attend Sunday mornings. Often it is those new to the faith or experiencing some sort of crisis who make it twice a week.
A side benefit of this midweek service became evident in the days following September 11. Possibly because the service had established the church as a place of worship during the week, people came in droves from nearby offices for the daily noontime services we held throughout that week.
Preachers also need to preach more because they themselves need it. Preaching keeps us engaged with the biblical texts. As Karl Barth said, the Bible invites us into a “strange, new world,” a world we need to enter more deeply not at the expense of involvement in the culture in which we live, but so that we may be engaged in that culture as Christians, as people formed and shaped by a different perspective.
And preaching more often may take a little pressure off the Sunday sermon. It puts fewer of our eggs into that particular basket. Preaching twice a week has made preaching more a part of my pastoral vocation and less of a Big Event.
Most ministers will say they are juggling too many balls, are pulled in too many directions and are fragmented among too many tasks. It’s easy to forget what’s central, what the vital few things are that we must do to be faithful to our calling. Though preaching may not be the sole core of the pastoral vocation, it is close to the heart of it–and it reminds the church of what’s central.
In preaching more often, the pastor signals to the congregation that he values preaching and gives it priority. If you want your ministry to be more about preaching or teaching and less about going to meetings or responding to all the imagined crises the average church can invent, then preach more. Preaching remains the primary way we interact with most of the congregation.
The weekend I graduated from Union Seminary in New York I heard two sermons. In the first Calvin Butts, now of Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, exhorted us to “Preach! Preach! Preach!” In the second, Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore told us to “Pray! Pray! Pray!” In my experience, the two go together. In order to preach, one needs to pray. And faithfully preaching the word leads us to our knees and to our prayers.
Anthony B. Robinson is pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church (UCC) in Seattle.
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Christian Century Foundation
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