|Preaching and Spiritual Vitality|
The phrase “to preach” often carries a negative connotation these days. “Don’t preach at me” is a plea to refrain from moralizing or condemning a person’s behavior. Even telling the truth can be seen as something different from the act of preaching in many settings. But that’s not all that makes meaningful preaching so difficult today.
Those who preach in congregations today are held to increasingly high standards. Congregants can easily turn to their laptops and cell phones to hear from famous preachers, noted authors and ministers who lead large congregations. The Sunday morning sermon at our home churches, where the preacher spent the night before out too late with the youth group or at the hospital with a dying saint, just doesn’t have the same vibrant energy or wisdom.
The net result? Preaching ends up with a poor reputation. Ministers and other church leaders who rise up Sunday after Sunday to present a word from God can easily fall into the trap of thinking what they say doesn’t really matter.
Although I understand this line of reasoning, I also reject it. Preaching does matter for congregations and for spiritual vitality. Preaching that emerges from prayer and from the context of the congregation’s own particular journey matters. I believe this for the following reasons: God is at work in the world, and the best place for us to see that work is within our own congregation and community. Preaching helps us to see God’s work. Restoration and renewal are God’s work, and the weekly articulation of the gospel is the generative center for what God desires to do. I can learn from any God-honoring preacher anywhere, but the God-honoring preacher who speaks within my congregation and context is much better positioned to say what I most need to learn. Of course, preaching is not easy work, but it matters for healthy congregations. Declaring the gospel message week in and week out in ways that relate to people in your congregation and community is ground zero for nurturing disciples.
So if you are a congregational leader, do your best to encourage those who preach to do so as if it matters. And if you are a preacher, then take courage to do your work well – for God’s sake.
On March 21-23, we will once again host Journey: From Text to Congregation, a conference for preachers. These three days focus on the work of moving from Scripture to a vibrant, life-giving message for the local congregation. I invite all those who are called to preach and teach to come and share in the resources that Journey will bring to the task of preaching.
2019 Ministers’ Salary Survey
We have launched our 2019 Ministers’ Salary Survey to gather information about current levels of compensation for ministers in Churches of Christ throughout the U.S. For survey purposes, the term “minister” includes any person paid by a congregation for ministerial work, including but not limited to preaching, youth, children’s, executive, etc. Our secure survey link protects participants’ privacy by avoiding the need for email addresses or any other identifying information. We invite you to participate in the survey now or thttps://goo.gl/forms/LR78M0ym4nqebL222o forward it to any ministers you know who serve in a Church of Christ. Visit this page for more information or to access previous years’ results.
Announcing the new Siburt Institute website!
We are excited to unveil our new website, siburtinstitute.org, a dynamic user-friendly portal to our programs, resources and upcoming events. We encourage you to take it for a test drive and tell your friends. We hope you like what you see!
Storytelling and the Good Samaritan
In his latest Mosaic article, Eric Gentry explores the account of the Good Samaritan to highlight storytelling as an effective instrument for the gospel and its call to love God and neighbor. He reminds us that Jesus, the master storyteller, is able to recognize the question behind the question. When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus ushers the questioner into an identity crisis and extends an invitation to transformation. Eric Gentry is associate preaching minister at the Highland Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
2019 Women in Ministry Conference
We are delighted to be one of the sponsors for this year’s Women in Ministry Conference, March 4-6 at the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas. The conference is open to women representing a broad spectrum of ministry and leadership, whether in congregational or university settings, whether paid or volunteer. The annual gathering is organized by the Community of Women Ministers, a group providing support and friendship for Church of Christ women pursuing vocational ministry.
One of its leaders, Dr. Amy Bost Henegar, also blogs for Mosaic, and in her latest post she shares more about the community and the conference. Click here to register or learn more.
Dr. Jason Byassee to speak at Summit 2019
Dr. Jason Byassee will be a featured presenter for Summit 2019. Byassee teaches preaching, Bible, leadership, church history and writing at the Vancouver School of Theology, where he is the inaugural holder of the Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Hermeneutics. He has authored numerous books and contributed to journals such as The Christian Century, First Things and The Other Journal.
Byassee will share principles from his book, The Gifts of the Small Church, along with insights gained as a former preacher for a small congregation. He will participate in the Small-Church pathway and present in other areas during the four-day event.
We are honored to partner with the First Central Presbyterian Church in Abilene to bring Byassee to Abilene, and we hope to partner with additional churches across the region as we seek to equip and serve church leaders and other Christ-followers for God’s mission in the world.
Mark your calendars for Sept. 15-18 and join us for Summit 2019 where we will explore the theme: “At Home in the Psalms: Sorrow, Hope and Joy.”
A couple of reminders!
• Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss Workshop
Join us for a Feb. 23 workshop in collaboration with Lifeline Chaplaincy at the North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas. The workshop is for anyone wanting to improve their skills in providing spiritual care to others. Visit theregistration and event page to register or for more information, including schedule, speaker lineup and session topics.
• Dallas/Fort Worth Ministers’ Lunch
Ministers in the Dallas and Fort Worth Metroplex are invited to join us for lunch on Feb. 5 at CHRIST Church in Irving, Texas. The event will feature noted author Dr. Richard Beck (’89), professor and chair of psychology at ACU. Beck will discuss his recent book,Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise. The lunch is is sponsored by ACU’s University Relations team in Fort Worth and the Siburt Institute. Registration is free, but space is limited.Click here to RSVP.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Dallas / Fort Worth Ministers’ Lunch, Feb. 5
Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss, Feb. 23
Ministers Support Network Retreat, Feb. 28 – March 3
Journey: From Text to Congregation, March 21-23
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
“While prayer and God-honoring relationships are essential to mission-informed leadership, disagreements and conflict can happen. Unity does not mean uniformity. Unity within a church happens when, despite disagreement or difference, we are on the same page when it comes to the mission and philosophy of the church and its directions … the elders are rooted in a deep understanding that what the church is doing is in alignment with God’s heart.” – J.R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt, Eldership and the Mission of God: Equipping Teams for Faithful Church Leadership
“The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.” – John White, Excellence in Leadership: Reaching Goals with Prayer, Courage & Determination