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thalia kehoe rowden: all the lonely preachers – where do they all belong?

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 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!

The Homiletic Homies at the Kiwi-Made Preaching Conference in April 2009: Sam Kilpatrick (Eastview Baptist) Jody Kilpatrick (Ponsonby Baptist), Stu Print (Wellington South Baptist), Thalia Kehoe Rowden (New Plymouth West Baptist), and Darren Ayling (Wellington Central Baptist).

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.


  1. Andrew Picard says:

    That looks like the Baptist leadership of 2020! Homlietical Homies is SUCH a brilliant idea. Green with envy…

  2. Miriam says:

    Thali, you’re probably already familiar with Barbara Brown Taylor and her book an Altar in the World? Just thinking of your sacred everyday series – could be useful 🙂

  3. Myk Habets says:

    Thanks Thalia, a fascinating insight into what you are doing, why, and how! Great encouragement. I love it. Thing is, given the large size of Auckland and the number of preachers here, why don’t more Auckland preachers do this regularly? Anyone have any ideas? There was/is a cluster of preachers that met with Paul, are there any others?

  4. Myk Habets says:

    P.s what is the next evolution in this idea – have one or more of you preach a sermon at one another’s church one week, given the overlap in themes etc? Makes going on holiday or a change of scenery when needed a lot easier as there is a continuity in preaching series etc. An added extra!

  5. Paul Windsor says:

    It is worth noting two things about this post from Thalia.

    When we had the Kiwi-made Preaching day back in April 2009, it was a seminar by these ‘homiletic homies’ that really captured peoples’ imaginations as they shared their story of what they do. It was the single most practical idea to emerge from a very good day together.

    The other thing is that in my work now with Langham Preaching in Asia and the Pacific, it is variations on the ‘homiletic homies’ theme to which we are so committed in a country. We have little interest in holding a preaching conference and that’s it. We want to see a movement, an indigenous movement. Under God’s good hand we want to see something organic, something viral spread. How is this hapeening in country after country? Through little ‘clubs’ functioning in ways not that different from what Thalia describes here.

    Thanks Thalia for making it the subject of your post – thanks Myk for enthusiastically endorsing it. We do need to see this sort of thing spreading virally around the country.

    Why not take some initiative among your network of colleagues in the preaching ministry?

  6. Great discussion, guys, thank you!

    Miriam: great thought – thanks! I should publish my needs to the web more often! Anyone got fair-trade mint chocolate to offer…?

    Myk 1: This discussion thread could be a matchmaking service, I reckon. Does anyone out there want to belong to a preaching group but not know where to start? Leave your details here!

    Myk 2: Yeah, I totally agree. This Lent the New Plymouth Baptists are collaborating on a series together and doing a bit of preaching swapping. A couple of us will be preaching on the same text twice, once at our own church and once at another – another good way to conserve resources, and manageable for neighbouring churches. It’s also meant we can share skills – Mike is doing the design, I’m doing the facebook page, Robyn is doing Lent devotions to go along with the series, Raymond is researching council resources, etc.

    Paul: can you say ‘homiletic homies’ in Urdu or Cantonese? 😉

    Everyone: we’d love to hear what kinds of collaborating you are currently doing with colleagues. Ideas?

  7. […] dozens of preachers from all around Aotearoa) and I thought I’d let you know you can read it here.  The blog is aimed at preachers, so for most of you it’ll be a peek behind the scenes at […]

  8. Grant Harris says:

    Tony Versey (Northgate Baptist) and I are coordinating our preaching series, for the same, and for various other reasons as well. A tangible example – this last week my week slipped away and on Thursday I said to Tony I’m quite behind for Sunday, to which his response was ‘I’ll send you mine.’ Whilst I’m not using his sermon, there were some good points of inspiration that helped me out.

    As an aside, I think the reason we don’t do this kind of thing well has many different reasons, including this funny autonomous thing that NZ Baptists seem to gravitate too, some insecurity themes, but overall a lack of a ‘let’s grow the Kingdom of God togther’ approach – I could go on, but I’ll get myself in trouble!

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