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a sermon listener talks to sermon speakers

Tell us a bit about yourself and how long have you been a Christian?

I’m a woman in my early 50s. I grew up in a Christian home and have been Christian for as long as I can remember. Sometimes (if not often!) I’ve struggled with what this means. My understanding of my relationship with God has shifted and become more nuanced over time. I have been part of churches in several denominations and listened to sermons in several cities in each of the three different countries I have lived in my adult life.

Given you have been a regular worshipper in churches in three different countries; what NZ preaching distinctives have you noticed?

I’m not sure whether they are NZ distinctives or differences relating to the theology of the particular church or preacher; perhaps a more informal style? But nothing really dramatically distinctive or identifiable as NZ!

What is important for you when you listen to a sermon?

A clear line of thought; an unpacking of a passage of the Bible, a questioning approach to what it could mean; reasoning for why it could be unpacked in a particular way; addressing any “contention” of meaning without glib or black and white answers; practical application to life; relating the passage to Jesus’s life work and ministry, or the whole overarching story of the Bible. Conciseness!

How does good preaching help you in your day-to-day life in your career and vocation?

A good sermon can be held in mind and pondered, chewed over, while having something to hold on to. It has a clear overarching theme or idea that is memorable. It has sparky bits! Good preaching can help me see how the Bible can be applied to my life here now to further the Kingdom. Good preaching will encourage me, comfort me, teach me, and reassure me with God’s presence.

Tell us about one of the most memorable sermons you have heard and why it was so.

You know I’m really racking my brains for memorable sermons. Which isn’t a good thing! I’m not someone who listens to them online or follows particular preachers. But three have come to mind.

I once watched a Rob Bell DVD called “Everything is Spiritual.” It sparked my wonder and the feeling that God and spiritual things are so much bigger than my imagining. I loved the explanation of the words in their original language and the richness of the poetry and the allusion and linkage between things.

I also remember one by Paul Trebilco who preached on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It really brought the history to life. For instance, how totally undignified it was for a man in this culture to hitch up his robes and run. This highlighted God’s boundless love for us. I think the visual component of Paul dressing up in character actually helped stick this in my brain a bit. Also it was a fresh take on a story I have possibly heard hundreds if not thousands of times.

Another memorable sermon was by Paul Windsor. He preached at Eden Chapel in Auckland (my parents’ church for some years). I think this must have been way back when I was a student in the late 1980’s. The sermon was about the submission passage in Eph 5:21-33! This stood out because it was a different interpretation fleshed out with more nuance and placed in its cultural context. Paul Windsor’s preaching was a new reading in contrast to what I’d heard at the time. His sermon let me think about the role of women in a way that was liberating for me in my early 20s. (Paul writes an outstanding regular blog – the Art of Unpacking)

When you consider the varied ways that develop your Christian discipleship (worship, Bible reading, study, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, service etc.), what place do sermons have in that?

I wish I could look forward to hearing more sermons with the qualities I listed above; then maybe they would be more important in the lineup. At one church I used to attend, I did enjoy hearing a detailed exegesis of a passage. But also I would have like to have heard hear other possible interpretations and an explanation why the preacher thought theirs was “correct.” The style was often a bit dogmatic, but it did make me think and want to read further and explore the Bible for myself.

To finish, here is an opportunity to give feedback to preachers reading this. Finish these sentences:

I wish more sermons would . . .

. . . inspire wonder and expand the Bible and promote curiosity about God and our relationship with Him and each other.

If anything, sermons today lack . . .

. . . a clear concise line of thought/teaching and/or meatiness.

My appeal to preachers is . . .

. . . not to have a string of anecdotes loosely linked

My prayer for preachers is . . .

. . . for a passionate relationship with Jesus to inspire them.

One Comment

  1. D. Tunyi says:

    This is very helpful. Words of wisdom. Thank you Geoff New. You may not remember me, but My name is Tunyi, I attended your presentation (Langham Preaching) few years ago at Shillong in North-East India. I am from North East India, a state called Nagaland.
    I now live in Vancouver, Canada. I get preach occasionally at the church I now attend. I am passionate about preaching and I would appreciate your help (write ups/ other materials). I hope to return to Nagaland in a couple of years time to serve there.

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