How You Listen to Sermons Makes a Difference

Preaching is more than something a pastor does. Preaching is an event, a moment, an experience in which God acts as the congregation listens to the preacher proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, for the life of the world in a way that matters. So the premise of my new book-making room for Jesus in preaching by asking where Jesus is during the preaching event-is at least as important for listeners as it is for preachers. When congregations insist that preaching will be about Jesus, pastors preach about Jesus in such a way that Jesus is in the room during the sermon. As an added benefit, listeners come to trust and discover that, since Jesus is in the room during the sermon, Jesus is also in other important rooms, including their homes, workplaces, schools, places they gather with family and friends, and places in the neighborhood where people need Jesus most.

So preaching is important to all of us and not merely the possession of the preacher. I am grateful that my friend and teacher, Dr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, wrote of my new book, My Burden is Light: Making Room for Jesus in Preaching, “This book is a valuable resource not only for preachers and teachers of homiletics, but for all who are concerned about the quality of Christian preaching today.”

If you are concerned about the quality of Christian preaching today I invite and encourage you to read this book, not to evaluate your preacher, but to make yourself a better listener. I believe reading this book will enrich your relationship with Jesus so that you more expectantly and wondrously experience him during preaching. If you have questions or concerns because of something you read in this book, the best thing you can do is invite your pastor to coffee or tea and discuss the book, not complain about the pastor’s preaching. I expect your pastor will enjoy the conversation.

On those occasions that I served as a consulting or interim pastor, I used my first children’s sermon to explain that my job was to tell the congregation about Jesus, and why it is important that he lived, died, and rose. I told the kids that if I didn’t do that, or if they didn’t hear it, they were to tell me and I would take them out for ice cream. When they told me, I never argued back. We went for ice cream. I got ice cream, time with the family, and a great conversation about Jesus and preaching.

If you read this book, you will need to be patient with yourself and with me. My friend, Bishop Mike Rinehart, writes: “This book is not light and fluffy reading.” Instead, you will seriously consider issues and topics important to your faith and to preaching, including:

  • Where Jesus is during the sermon
  • The Holy Spirit’s role and work in preaching
  • The purpose of preaching and the goal of sermons
  • Ways we might think about Jesus saving us and the world
  • Reading the Bible so that it is about Jesus
  • The relationship between sermons and public/social issues
  • How preaching can help us share the story of Jesus with people who do not know him
  • Strengthening our relationship with Jesus so we expect him to show up in preaching

You will need to translate as you read, not foreign languages, but to someone who listens to sermons, since the book’s primary audience is preachers. You might think of yourself as overhearing a conversation among preachers about their work and making connections to the ways the book is relevant to you as a Christian, church member, and baptized child of God, especially when you are listening to sermons. I hope you will read My Burden is Light. I pray it helps you help the church make room for Jesus in preaching.

Learn more about My Burden is Light

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These pages offer countless and vivid examples of how God is with us, Christ is in us, and the Spirit is all around us.  — Rev. Abraham D. Allende, Bishop Emeritus, ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod

This book is a valuable resource not only for preachers and teachers of homiletics, but for all who are concerned about the quality of Christian preaching today. –Dr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

Jesus fills these pages.…Read this book to meet Jesus. –Rev. Kurt Kusserow, Bishop, ELCA Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod

You might also enjoy reading You Are Witnesses of These Things: Sharing the Story of Jesus

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