One more “Dallas Willard note” from the Ecclesia Network National Gathering. The Gathering this past week proved to be a special time for the many of us gathered there to learn more how to lead our communities into Mission. Dallas Willard offered challenge after challenge. You can see highlights by going to the Tweet Twub right here. In a Q&A on Wednesday morning Dallas offered some comments on preaching that I suggest should be taken special note of. He said he used to preach like a machine gun, rolling sentence after sentence in an attempt to barrage the congregation with powerful communication. A wise friend said innocently to him one day, “Dallas, why don’t you talk more slowly so people can think about what you’re saying?” Dallas said “hmm I never thought of that.” (People laughed). He pointed out that once you do this – talk slowly … more matter of factly … in a sense have a conversation with people – “this means I had to release people into the hands of God.” Instead of my own performance, I now had to depend upon God. In doing this, preaching changes from a finely tuned engineered performance to allowing the Spirit to work in what we are doing.
I suggest this little snippet from Willard is essential to understanding the role of preaching in the Missional Church. For here in the missional church gathering preaching is not a.) for the purpose of distributing information and self help points on how to improve your Christian life, b.) not an inspirational talk done by a convincing and charismatic speaker. Neither is it c.)someone speaking as an expert from above – although the preacher will be gifted in teaching/preaching and have studied the Scriptures well. Instead preaching for the missional church is a preaching among the church, out of the community, interpreting what God is doing among us and calling us living into the reality of that. It is a clarion call to live into the reality that “Jesus is Lord ” and all that that might mean for us in our lives and context. We preach like this relying on the Scriptures unfurling the reality of God at work in the world all under the work of the Holy Spirit. The preacher must speak authentically, he/she must be known in and among the congregation (by at least some people everyday in the congregation). He/she must be involved in the lives of people in everyday life. He /she must proclaim the gospel reality of Jesus Kingdom breaking in, the transforming power of God’s forgiveness, defeat of the powers and his working for the renewal of all things INTO THE SITUATIONS WE ARE LIVING. (I strongly suggest this can’t be done via a video screen).
Some of the ways this takes shape at our church is a.) we speak from among on the ground floor in the middle of the circle, not from a platform above, b.) we speak out of Scripture explaining some things, but the emphasis of the sermon is on the simple proclamation of the reality of the text over our lives – we avoid excessive lexicography, grammar, c.) we emphasize to the preacher “be present” with yourself and your life, take the performance of out of it, yet point to Christ (we wear a cross and black to symbolize this points to Christ, not our own personality), D.) we have a 9 a.m. bible study immediately preceding the worship gathering. This hour of study together as a community guides and shapes directly into the preacher’s preaching for that morning. Preachers are interpretive leaders guiding the people via the Scriptures into seeing what God is doing and calling us into in terms of the life in Christ and His Mission.
Thanks to Dallas Willard and the Ecclesia Net Conference. Rarely have I ever been to a conference that fed missional leaders like this one. And from now on I shall try to speak more slowly.