Guest blog by Rev. Dr. Adam T. Trambley. Adam brings a wealth of knowledge and encouragement from his own discovery journey in learning how preaching transforms congregations. This is part 2 of 2 where Adam lays out four steps to a long-term sermon.
In yesterday’s post, I talked about the power of a sustained sermon focus over an extended period of time. Making a significant change in a congregation requires focused leadership, and preaching is one of a church leader’s most effective tools. Today, I want to give you steps to help you gear your sermons toward change.
Four practical steps for preaching a long-term sermon
1. Know Where You Are Going
What is the most important change your church needs to make to live into who God is calling it to be? Depending on the church, your most pressing current issue could be more evangelism work, improved administrative structures, better conflict resolution, more intentional spiritual practices, or a variety of other areas. Identifying this focus usually required significant prayer, conversations with church leaders, and often the assistance of a coach or consultant.
2. Identify what people need to know
Too often, mediocre preaching assumes that people could do better but are recalcitrant. Transformational preaching assumes that people are in church because they want to live into the fullness of God’s call, and that they are doing the best they can. The goal of preaching is to give them everything they need to do better. When preaching for intentional change, three areas provide what a congregation needs, and they are communicated multiple times over a twelve-to-twenty-four month period.
- A Practical Vision: How will the church be better if this change is made?
- A Theological Rationale: How does the Bible call us to make this change?
- Concrete Instructions: How can individuals, ministries, and the congregation as a whole live into what God is calling them to do?
3. Creatively Break It Down Week-by-Week
Once you have a vision for your change, recognize the scriptural call for it, and can offer understandable action steps, the task becomes preaching in a sustainable way that continually lifts up the key focus. Sometimes this will mean a dedicated sermon or sermon series. Other times the focus will be lifted up in one of the sermon’s application examples, a short discussion of how a Biblical text speaks to the long-term focus as well as the day’s theme, or an example during announcements about how the focus is being incorporated into a congregation’s life. Describing our own challenges with the needed change, and how we as pastor’s are working to overcome them can also be powerful. Coordinating sermons with other church activities and other voices adds greater leverage.
4. Look For Fruit
If the goal of preaching is congregational transformation, we should expect to see changes in our church. Being in conversation with other leaders and leadership groups throughout our preaching will help us see what is happening, make mid-course corrections as needed, and determine when our church has appropriated the new understanding and practice so we can begin the cycle again. Such conversations can also provide us needed feedback as preachers as we continue to hone our craft.
About the author
The Rev. Dr. Adam T. Trambley is the author of A Way with Words: Preaching That Transforms Congregations, which lays out how to preach a long-term sermon. He is the senior pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon, Pennsylvania.
Goal Setting Series– Goal setting turns a broad intention into tangible steps that are likely to achieve the intent in some specific way. Improve your ability to set and follow through with your own goals and objectives using the Goal Setting Effectiveness Profile, Goals & Objectives Skills Builder, and/or the Goal Setting Coaching Guide with Storyboard.
Communication Series– It is really important to develop our communication skills because they have an impact on almost every aspect of our lives. Improve your communication effectiveness using the Communication Effectiveness Profile, Effective Communication Coaching Guide with Storyboard, and/or the Communication Skills Leadership Skills Guides.