Today, I continue the third and final part of a 3 part series with Dr. Lenny Luchetti, Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry and Proclamation at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is a gifted teacher as well as an active blogger. You can connect with Lenny at: http://lennyluchetti.blogspot.com/
There is something other than sound exegesis, solid hermeneutics, and stellar homiletics that makes good preaching, good. Truth be told, sometimes the determining factor behind whether or not a preacher gets a hearing has very little to do with the craft of preaching and very much to do with how well the preacher matches the context in which he/she preaches. For example, there are many people who would say that Charles Stanley, shown on TV all over the country, is a good preacher. While I respect the man’s love for God and his conviction that the bible is God’s word, I quickly change the TV station because I’m not into his preaching. Most of the people in Stanley’s church and most of the people outside of his church who love his preaching tend to be 60 years of age or older. Charles Stanley is a good preacher in his context because he matches his context. Andy Stanley, the son of Charles, is one of my favorite preachers. Andy is within 10 years of my age and most of the people who attend his church are younger than 40 years of age. If we invited the members of our church who are over 60 to view Andy Stanley’s preaching, my guess is that the majority of them will not readily connect with the preacher. Andy is a good preacher, for a variety of reasons, but especially because he matches the context of people to whom he preaches. Context is everything!
Why do some preachers attract a growing number of people who come hungry to hear their preaching while other preachers face the pain of a diminishing congregation? Not always, but often, it has everything to do with whether or not the preacher fits with his/her preaching context. It’s not always about whether or not the preacher has a good or bad style, but whether or not the style of the preacher is contextualized. The Apostle Paul recognized the import of context, which is why he preached differently to Greek Athenians in the town square than he did to Diaspora Jews in the synagogue. Paul realized that our preaching gets heard most when our preaching content and style match, as much as possible, the needs and perspectives of the people to whom we preach. Context doesn’t change the gospel message, just how we deliver it.
The further I go in ministry the more I realize who I am as a preacher. The more I realize who I am as a preacher the more aware I become of the fact that there are more church contexts I wouldn’t match than ones I would match. When I first began my pastoral ministry 15 years ago I would have been glad to serve as pastor to any group of people in any place without a thought to whether or not I was a good fit with the church context. Today, I think I’m a bit wiser (though some might disagree J) and I realize that there are some churches that I would not fit in terms of my preaching convictions and preferences. I do believe that if a pastor preaches the Scriptures with passion, and loves God and the people she serves with deep devotion, a pastor can probably survive in ministry anywhere. However, I am fairly convinced that a preacher will not just survive but thrive most when the preaching, at least to some extent, matches the preaching context.
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