What I'd like to hear at church, and how I'd like the pastor to prepare

by Arnold Neumaier

(see also the translation in German, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian, and Uzbek)

The purpose of sermons

  • The Easter message: God is powerful! Jesus is alive today! makes all the difference to each sermon
  • Preach ``God is in charge! Change! Improve! It is possible!'' (Matth. 4:17) This will add momentum to those who want to grow in God's ways.
  • Preach to increase our awareness of God, His power, His will, His love and His gifts
  • Preach to show that God is at work in our world and we are helping Him
  • Preach to strengthen our motivation to serve Him and to devote our life to Him
  • Preach to allow your hearers experience their inner striving for closeness to God, the longing of their soul
  • Preach invitation and encouragement to trust, to commit ourselves, to change, to obey, to resist, to love, to endure, to grow stronger, to risk, to be open to God
  • Preach to show that this can be done and how; how God and other Christians can give support
  • Preach in such a way that your message becomes a gospel: ``If this is really true then life becomes so much ... easier, ... more meaningful, ... more challenging, ... more exciting'', and make sure that it really is true, and that your hearers can realize it.
  • Let the sermon be a shower that refreshes our daily devotion to God.

    Questions for self-examination I

  • How did I change from one who only went through the motions to one who became genuine?
  • What made me realize God's power in my life?
  • What helped me to prepare for God?
  • What made me grow, realize, trust, take risks?
  • Preach what has been a power in your own life (as if explaining to your child what a particular bible text affected in your life)

    Questions for self-examination II

  • Math. 5:48 - The 11th commandment
  • Matth. 6:33 - Does it become clear by what I say that this is the most important decision in the life of a Christian?
  • Matth. 11:28-30 - Does my message feel like that?
  • Matth. 13:44-46 - Does this show in what I preach?
  • Rom. 1:16 - Does this show in my message?
  • Rev. 2:4; 3:15 - Do I live up to this? Do I teach this?
  • Rev. 2:7+11+17+26; 3:5+12+21; 21:7 - Do I have ears to hear?
  • Rev. 21:3-5 - Can I convey a glimpse of this?
  • Preach to give eyes to the blind and ears to the deaf

    Questions for self-examination III

  • Do I teach what is of concern to my audience?
  • Do I teach what might change, alert, strengthen them?
  • What is needed to help the congregation grow? (not the numbers but the persons!)
  • What does God expect me to say?
  • What would I like to say if no one would take offense?
  • Why don't I do it? What or whom do I fear? Should I?

    Improving style

  • Have courage to speak His word in His authority (Luke 10:16; 1 Peter 4:11)
  • not repeating what we know about the world, but what we know how God overcomes the world
  • not ``... we didn't make much headlines ...'' but ``you know, we should not expect much headlines ...'' (Matth. 6:1-18)
  • not ``would we be able to do ...?'' but ``how to get closer to doing ...'' (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:25-32)
  • not questions, but examples; models of being, changing, etc. (Hebr. 12:1)
  • not ``I am not sure we ...'' but God's word is clarity, light (Gen. 1:3; John 8:12).

    Mission: Attracting Outsiders

  • Preach so that those no longer familiar with the message of Christ can understand, and get new hope
  • People yearn for true values, for reliable guidance. Pass on the best!
  • People hibernate for another year, waiting for the day they hear something that moves them to change.
  • Pass on what you know to be real! Rom. 10:14
  • Do not fear opposition! (Matth. 10:20; John 3:11; 6:60+66-68; Acts 18:9-10)
  • Make the sermon an invitation to become a new person; ensure that it really is an invitation.

    Preaching in the bible

  • Study how Jesus, the apostles, the prophets preach, and learn from them.
  • God teaches the prophets how to preach, and prepares them;
    e.g., Is. 40:6-8; Jer. 1:6; 4:3; 6:16; 7:1-8; 23:28-29; Ez. 2:1-7; 3:17-21; Mal. 2:5-7;
  • Paul teaches Timothy and Titus what to say;
    e.g., 1 Tim. 4:6-16; 2 Tim. 4:2+5; Tit. 1:9;

    O Lord, power of life, have mercy on us who fail to live up to what you wanted to give us. Make us passionately desire to grow in your ways, to expect the fullness of your grace, not to be content with our compromises. Make us long for the living water, which creates life and love, that we overflow with compassion and sensitivity. Transform our cold hearts into glowing fires so that others feel your power and catch fire themselves. Give us patience, strength and excitement to live our lives with you and for you. Make us instruments of your will, living letters of your love, so that what we say and do speaks of you. Amen

    Gedanken zum Leben als Christ
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    my home page (http://arnold-neumaier.at)

    Arnold Neumaier (Arnold.Neumaier@univie.ac.at)