I have written hundreds of sermons. I won’t say I’ve written hundreds of good sermons. In fact I think I may owe the four congregations we served an occasional apology for either bad preparation or poor delivery. I suppose we can’t have only good outcomes all the time. I did note through the years that sometimes what I thought was a not-so-good sermon seemed to have a greater effect than the ones I was “proud of”.
When I was doing my Master of Arts (Pastoral Theology) I took four-one hour classes from Dr. Steve DeNeff. He was inspiring and easy to follow and engage. But what really made his stand out in my mind was his final session, where in great style he outlined the final step to prepare to preach. That step: the preacher must die. I remember how that landed on me….with a Spirit stirred self examination. If you get behind a pulpit at any time the question is, can anyone see Jesus, can anyone hear Jesus? How much of this is about me?
Most of us have moments in our personal journey where information is more than information – it’s revelation and that was how I received this four hour experience.
I’m including here an example of Dr. DeNeff’s preaching.
Since then I have been a regular listener to Dr. DeNeff who is the Senior Pastor at College Weslyan in Indiana. I noted in reading that there was an interesting interview from 2011 that highlighted his unusual preaching style. I thought I would give you the link, below, and a portion of the article.
In 2011 Dr. Steve DeNeff was interviewed – you can find the interview here, but I have cut and pasted the last paragraph.
“Lenny: As a preacher and as a teacher of preaching you have influenced many aspiring and seasoned preachers. Is there a person, book, or experience that has profoundly influenced your preaching?
Steve: I read a couple preaching books every year. I learn something from each of them but there isn’t one that I would go to as the quintessential book on preaching. I’m about done with Steven Smith’s, “Dying to Preach” (great book!) and I’ll pick up Robert McKee’s “Story” after that. McKee’s book is not for preachers. It’s for script-writers but I think there is something to learn from that discipline. That goes for other disciplines too. As for mentors, I’ve spent much time with Dennis Kinlaw over the last 4-5 years. I visit him each time I’m in Asbury and spend a couple hours talking about theology and the Church. Dennis is almost 90, and still he moves seamlessly from Plato’s Republic (quoting it in Greek) to John Paul’s Theology of the Body, to Tom Torrence’s book, Incarnation, then he brings it right back to the practical and daily work of a pastor. Finally, I watch people while someone else is preaching. They will tell you when someone is interesting and when he is not. So I go to school on them while they’re going to school on you. And you’re pretty good, man.”
I’m preaching this week, which I am really pleased about, but am going to be working on dying before standing behind the pulpit.