Preaching for Partnership
I’ve had several conversations sparked by the same question a handful of times over the past several years of our church plant.
The question is not one asked by those who are on mission with us. It’s not asked by those who are being reached through our community. It’s a question asked by Christians who remain on the fringes. Typically, I’m not interested in answering questions like this because I have no interest in convincing the already convinced or winning someone over to “my style” for the sake of attendance numbers. However, I know that many of you have friends who you want to reach because you see them stuck in religion, and this seems to be a sticking point for them.
The question goes something along the lines of, “Why don’t you teach more classroom-style so I can learn something new?” or “Why don’t you teach more practical points so I learn what to do?”
There are number of things that inform my preaching style – some are simply personal and characteristic of my journey with Jesus, while others are deep theological convictions.
It’s important to understand something right out of the gate: my preaching is not designed to be the end-all, be-all in winning our city to Jesus. I’m all for evangelistic sermons and conventions, but even the great evangelist Billy Graham knew his sermons were extremely limited, and that it takes a church family to make disciples. You may not realize this, but he made it a point to partner with churches before he ever came to a city (the more you know!).
I preach primarily in a way to spark something in the listener. I want to create unrest in their mind, and stir up their heart and soul. A famous preacher once said he wanted to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” My hope is that a sermon would move someone to the point of engaging in a conversation about what they experienced in their heart, not simply regurgitating something they learned.
Personally – if I accomplish nothing else – I’d rather you feel something instead of learn something. I want you to leave with a longing for Jesus. I don’t want to simply increase your knowledge, I want to stoke your affections. Much of this is because of my own journey. I have seen knowledge be such a roadblock to truly knowing and trusting and walking with Jesus (1 Cor 8:1-3). I have also seen it become a roadblock to others considering following Jesus – when Christians fight over unimportant issues, it destroys the witness of the church (John 13:35; John 17:20-23; 1 Cor 13:2).
I have a deep conviction that the Bible is not an instruction manual for life. It is not our map or guide. The Bible is designed to point us to Jesus, and He is our Guide. (John 5:39-40, Psalm 48:14) And when it comes to tension and unrest in our hearts, we don’t need answers or application – we need trust and we need His presence. (Proverbs 3:5-12) As these truths attest to, and as the Apostle John so passionately pointed out in his three letters to churches, Christianity is not the application of teaching – it is fellowship with Jesus (1John 1:3-4 ; 2:26-28; 4:13-19).
Ultimately, my preaching is about partnership. I want you, the family of Ignition, to understand you are not a tool in the hands of the weekend worship experience. But rather, the weekend worship experience is a tool in the hands of you, the disciple. I want you to feel confident bringing your friends knowing you will have opportunity to engage with them at a heart level after the experience.
The greatest tool you have in reaching your friends is your story of His work in your life. This is better than any sermon. It doesn’t get any more practical than what He is doing right now in your heart. And there is nothing more powerful for your friends than recognizing you have been with Jesus.
So share your story, bring people with you, and together, we can reach our city.