The favourite game of Paul Windsor’s preaching students at Carey Baptist College was to casually mention in Paul’s hearing how helpful we’d found sermons.com for downloading last Sunday’s sermon.
Now, Paul is a man with a twinkle in his eye, but his expansive sense of humour doesn’t stretch to the thought of anyone preaching a downloaded sermon. So I hasten to say clearly before continuing that I have never done so – it’s ok, Paul!
But I can understand the appeal. Pastoring can be lonely work: most ministers in New Zealand are in ‘sole’ positions, where they’re the only trained staff. And writing a new sermon each week alone in your study is hard work! I reckon most sermon downloading happens not because preachers run out of time, but because they are isolated, working without colleagues.
Does preaching really have to be lonely? Do I really have to rely on my own creativity until the well runs dry? How can we be kept accountable and extended by trained preachers when we’re out on our own?
Enter the Homiletic Homies!
Having discovered that chatting sermons over with other preachers vastly improves our preaching, the Homies are five mates who act as preaching colleagues. We even have t-shirts.
We’re scattered over three cities, and we get together once or twice a year to plan our respective preaching calendars (we’re all at churches who don’t primarily follow the lectionary), and plan for some overlap in the various series we want our churches to explore.
Then we go home, and thank God for Skype, email and BestMate phone plans.
This Lent Darren and Jody are preaching from Luke on the Hospitality of Jesus, and each week they’ll be able to discuss the text they’re both studying, by phone, Skype and email. At the same time, Stu and I will be preaching on the Sermon on the Mount, so we’ll be doing the same. Sam, bless him, will do the visual design work for both of these series (right, Sam? Pretty please?)
In August, we’re all doing a series on James, and I’m scheduled to do some initial research into the themes of this letter that none of us have studied academically before. We know it’s coming up, so we’ll be keeping our eyes open for resources (images, clips, articles, blog posts) through the year. We’ll all write our own distinct sermons for our own distinctive congregations, but those sermons will be richer and better for the collegial discussions during the week.
I’ll also keep my eyes open for resources for Darren’s Travel and Spirituality series coming up in May, and he’ll flick stuff my way for the Sacred Everyday series he knows Stu and I are doing in July.
It makes such a difference to have team-mates. Our preaching is richer, more creative, better thought out for having been tested through the weeks with sharp-minded colleagues. At a more mundane level, we all have different commentaries and prayer books and have seen different movies and YouTube clips, so we widen our net of resources by keeping in touch with each other. Best of all, we know we’re not in this alone.
I can’t imagine preaching week-in-week-out without the support, friendship and teamwork of these precious colleagues. Who do you have in your life who keeps you from being an isolated, tired preacher?
* * *
Thalia Kehoe Rowden is an awesome parallel parker and the pastor of New Plymouth West Baptist Church, a place of shelter, faith and laughter.