• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Training Better Preachers

In honour of John Stott’s passing, a question: What one thing (okay, you can allow yourself more than one) would you make sure preachers were trained to be or to do better–as preachers?

(Preachers, like the rest of us, likely need to pray better, and tithe better, and rest better, and so on. But what specifically pertinent to sermon-giving needs to change?)

Would it be analyzing contemporary culture at large or your neighbourhood in particular so that sermons don’t hang in the air but actually touch down in the real world? Would it be connecting with life outside the church in order to know where the keenly felt issues are for people in the pew? Would it be giving us concrete actions to lead out from the sermon to the rest of life?

Would it be reflecting something other than the particular demographic categories represented by the pastor himself or herself, or the main mass of the congregation? Would it be showing sensitivity to this or that group of people so that references to them were more accurate and empathetic? Would it be engaging us with the needs of the poor and oppressed, here and elsewhere?

Would it be going deeper so that it’s not “Alpha, Alpha, Alpha” all the time? Would it be making the sermons more concise and focused–or giving us more material? Would it be adding more illustrative stories–or cutting back on them to make way for more ideas, whether concepts, doctrines, propositions, commands, promises, blessings, or warnings?

Would it be understanding theology so well that sermons didn’t stray into heresy or sheer incoherence? Would it be offering good reasons for why this teaching or story should be taken as true, rather than just assuming we’ll all automatically take it on board?

What comes to mind? What do preachers need to be or do better?

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