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1. I am educating my congregation

Because we affirm the Incarnation—the doctrine that God became flesh and lived among us as Jesus Christ in a specific culture and at a specific time and in a specific place—we are confessing that all truth from God is contextual. The Holy Spirit does not speak to us through a heavenly megaphone but from within the context of the biblical writers and within the context of our everyday reality. Our context is ever changing. Thus, I always have the task of interpreting our context relative to the biblical context; that is to say, my sermons always have an educational dimension, but an educational dimension without academic prerequisites.

2. I am bringing my congregation closer to personal faith

All congregations live to some degree in denial because the acknowledgement of hardship, distress and adversity is not only unpleasant—it puts one at a social disadvantage. For this reason, the people in my congregation, having insight into their own souls but not into the souls of others, tend to bear their own suffering in silence and solitude. If my sermon were to stop at the educational task, they would all be trivia experts who despair for their lives. I must not leave them there!

To proclaim Jesus as the Answer, I have to demonstrate that I understand the Question, and I have to demonstrate that the Solution fits the Problem. I have to read the Ecclesiastes in their souls before I can apply the gospels to their hearts.

My sermons cannot deny the demons of their spiritual pain; I must cast them out by name, filling the void they leave behind with the presence and love of Jesus Christ.

3. I am motivating my congregation to Christian discipleship

I observe that very few people are bodily assumed into heaven upon praying “Lord Jesus, come into my heart,” and that is because there is a reason for the interval between conversion and death that goes beyond fixing our destination as heaven.

If the church were an animal, Christian education would be its bones and faith would be its muscles, but even with flesh and bone, the animal is not complete. An animal that does not move or interact with its environment is dead. Or as James says, faith without works is dead. So my sermon, having cast out the demons named in Ecclesiastes, having applied the balm of the gospels, must motivate my congregation to discipleship.

We confess Jesus Christ as Lord, but so did every demon in the New Testament. So how can you tell the difference between a Christian and a demon? It is only through our obedience, our service, our discipleship and our stewardship that we are better than the demons. Thus, my sermon must move the congregation to action.

4. I am glorifying God

God is glorified when His little ones struggle and prevail. My congregation is already struggling beneath their layers of respectable denial. When my sermon educates them, casts out their demons by name and motivates them to Christian discipleship, only then does it equip them to prevail. When they prevail, God is glorified.

For this reason, I do not hold that the preacher is channeling God, to put it in New-Age talk. The Holy Spirit only speaks through me retroactively, after my sermon has educated my congregation, after my sermon has kindled their faith, after my sermon has motivated their discipleship, and only after that discipleship has borne fruit in deeds of faith. Preaching is thus a sort of apocalyptic act; its meaning is found only in its culmination.

Ken Collins is an ordained minister in the Christian Church, which is a member denomination of the Churches Uniting in Christ and Christian Churches Together in the USA. He's the pastor of Garfield Memorial Christian Church in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.

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Darrell Cooper

commented on Oct 10, 2014

I think number 1 should be a CALL to the Ministry. Without a call the four mentioned reasons will fall flat when the trials come.

Peggy L Holt

commented on Oct 10, 2014

I agree Darrell. There is a difference when God calls you and you call yourself or you are going by what people say to you. It is called having relationship with God, he said "My sheep will know my voice". If God is not in it then it will fail.

Jason Smith

commented on Oct 11, 2014

Where in scripture would you point to to show that each and every individual who does ministry is called by God? What does this calling look like? Is it just a nudging from God? Is is an audible or miraculous call like what we see with Isaiah the prophet (Isa 6)? What I see in scripture is that there is not a "calling" by God as you put it for pastors and preachers. Those who are doing the work, meet the qualifications that the Spirit gives in scripture, and have a desire to be a pastor or preacher, are those who become pastors or preachers.

Jeremy Fort

commented on Nov 4, 2014

I think I understand what you are saying. Apart from Christ one can do nothing. I remember hearing Andy Stanley talk about a conversation he had with his father once. He asked his father, "Do you have to be called to be in ministry or can you just volunteer?" Andy himself, at that stage of life, either did not feel called or did not recognize it, or perhaps he was not. Can you simply offer yourself as a living sacrifice to Christ and have him use you? I would like to think God would say, sure, I can use you! As I read it, God can give whatever gift he so chooses to anyone at anytime. All that is required is a willing heart. I can teach someone what to do, however I cannot change the willingness of their heart.

Jason Smith

commented on Oct 11, 2014

Great thoughts Mr. Collins. Thank you

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