“Preaching” is a uniquely Christian activity. It is based upon the prophetic declarations by which God communicated divine wisdom and instructions to ancient Israel. It is shaped by the teaching ministry of Jesus. It is energized by the Spirit-inspired proclamations of the first Christian apostles.
When we think of preaching today, we imagine gathered congregations on Sunday mornings, and a lengthy (often boring!) teaching from a church leader. In fact, the term “preaching” is used by many as a negative form of communication: “Don’t preach at me!” But Christian preaching begins simply with personal testimony. We speak about the Jesus who loves us and who has changed our lives. We testify about the way we see the world now that God has opened our eyes to new worlds and powerful perspectives. We preach Christ, God come among us to live our lives, make heaven understandable to us, die to transform our hearts, and rise to promise us life beyond death.
Preaching is communication. It originates with God’s communication to us, and thus is rooted in scripture. But it is personal because it is conveyed by us as human beings. At the same time, it is energized by the Holy Spirit who helps us understand God’s intentions, actions, and call to faith.
Just as the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament spoke the word of God through different voices in different context with different challenges, so the preaching of today’s church is multifaceted. Preachers give voice to the call of Jesus through a variety of teaching styles and communication methods. But the essence of the message is always the same: “We preach Christ!”
There are, of course, different ways in which sermons are prepared, based on the thoughtful study and interpretation of the biblical writings. Influenced by cultural changes and challenges, a number of different families of theological reflection have emerged. Our approach at CLC lies within the Reformed tradition, built upon the expansive insights of John Calvin at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Central to this theological approach are these emphases:
- The distinction between “regeneration” (God’s one-time act accomplished solely through the work of Jesus) and “sanctification” (God’s on-going transformative activity taking place in partnership with redeemed persons and communities).
- The “Presbyterian” form of church structure, built around the primacy (but not independence) of the local congregation governed by Elders and Deacons who are called and elected from the membership because of their obvious spiritual gifts.
- Appreciation of the sacraments as two in number (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), each being a sign and seal of God’s redemptive love, but not actually transacting merit.
- Viewing the “Law of God” as not only normative for creation and as announcing human sinfulness, but also as guiding our redeemed response of sanctified living.
SESSION 1 – Understanding Preaching as It Functions in Our World
Key Idea: There are three types of gospel communication; the public preaching ministry of the church requires both personal testimony and communications ability, but is also something more: group persuasion.
SESSION 2 – When Is Preaching “Good”?
Key Idea: “Good” preaching is more than simply effective communication; it is a synergism of love for God, faithfulness to the gospel, and openness to God’s empowerment.
SESSION 3 – How Is Preaching Connected to Scripture?
Key Idea: Most Christian preaching is located somewhere on a continuum between the extremes of strict exposition and topical exploration. All Christian preaching needs to present the Gospel as revealed in Jesus.
SESSION 4 – Preaching the Gospel
Key Idea: God has been at work redemptively throughout biblical history; this redemptive revelation is uniquely focused on and clarified through the person and work of Jesus.
SESSION 5 – Jesus at the Center of All Preaching
Key Idea: Although Jesus is never mentioned in the Old Testament, and only a small number of prophetic passages focus on his coming as Messiah, Jesus believed the whole of scripture pointed to him.
SESSION 6 – Communicating Christ Culturally
Key Idea: In order to make the gospel of Jesus connect we must use accessible language, employ meaningful illustrations, understand people’s felt needs, connect rather than antagonize, define the gospel in terms of personal and cultural change, and call for action.
SESSION 7 – Preaching and “Relevance”
Key Idea: The Enlightenment-influenced Modern and relativistic Post-Modern worlds present unique challenges to gospel preaching because of their antipathy to God, revelation, and religious authority. Gospel preaching focuses on unresolved human need, the unique affirmations of Jesus’ resurrection, and the contours of the biblical worldview.
SESSION 8 – Calling for Conviction
Key Idea: Connecting gospel preaching to felt needs for changed lives involves winsome creativity in bringing together the reality of life and the power and presence of Jesus
SESSION 9 – Partnership Preaching
Key Idea: Christian preaching at its best is a synergism of Christ, by the Spirit, empowering the authenticity of our own spiritual depth, testimony of personal transformation, and knowledge of the Kingdom of God.
SESSION 10 – The Mechanics of Expository Preaching
Key Idea: Expository preaching involves a four-step preparation: (1) discern the goal of the text; (2) establish a theme for the sermon based upon that goal; (3) develop a preaching outline connected to all of the dominant moves or highlights of the text; and (4) connect the theme and points meaningfully through illustration and application
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