Last year I took a course on 'Preaching' with Haddon Robinson and Rob Bell, as part of my Doctor of Ministry program with Fuller Theological Seminary. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned so much.
There is an entire field of study in preaching and communication and although I’ve spoken thousands of times, I've only given it occasional thought and attention. Yes, I've taken a class or two on preaching, read some books on the topic, and listened to a lot of preachers, but there is so much more to learn about communicating to our contemporary audience from the timeless Word of God and about helping people grow and change. I want to keep learning in this area and help others to do the same.
I'll be making occasional posts on my blog about some of the things I've been learning. [See my post on 'Look Mum, No Notes!', under the preaching category of my blog, for some thoughts on preaching without notes]
Rob Bell is the Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan. He is a speaker, author, and the creator of the Nooma visual presentations. Rob is a very interesting person – creative, arty, humble and insightful. He spoke mainly about ‘text in context’ and the benefits that come from thinking through the context of Scripture thoroughly. He also had some excellent tips on sermon preparation and how to be always on the look out for insights well ahead of when we preach them. He uses four words to describe his process: RADAR, BUCKETS, CHUNKS, and MARINATE.
Let me unpack those for you ...
- RADAR - as communicators of God's Word we need to have our spiritual radar on all the time. Preaching preparation is not something we set aside for a specific day each week. We need to be listening to God's promptings ALL the time - while talking to people, while driving down the street, while watching the news, while reading the Bible ... all the time. God can turn an ordinary place into a sacred place, just like he did for Jacob sleeping out in a desert area (Gen.28:10-17). The truth is that God is everywhere and he is speaking all the time. Are we tuned in? How easily we can miss God at work all around us at each moment of the day. Preaching preparation is be a lifestyle. Wake up and get your radar on!
- BUCKETS - we need a way to capture these thoughts and ideas as we receive them. Write down whatever moves you. You might choose to use a paper notepad or in a Word file on your computer. But create a heap of buckets to record your insights. If you don't, you'll forget them.
- CHUNKS - over time, some of your individual thoughts and ideas will start to connect together with similar thoughts and ideas to form 'chunks'. A fragment starts to form part of a larger story. It could be a Bible verse, a thought from a TV advertisement, something someone said to you, or a reflection you had - all on a similar topic. Begin to chunk them together. They become the foundation for entire messages or segments of messages.
- MARINATE - the best meat is marinated! It's tender and tasty. In the same way, the best messages are ones that you have been marinating in your spirit for a while (even for months), not something you threw together on Saturday evening. Ensure that the message is part of you and that it's something you're living out. Allow the Word to become flesh in you. You can't fake this or do it quickly. Allow God's words to become your words. Your teaching will drip with depth and anointing. You will know it and so will those who listen.
As we take time to hear from God, then deliver His message with creativity and passion, His Spirit will use our words to bring about positive change in people's lives. Go for it!