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Preaching for the Missional Church: One More Tidbit from Dallas Willard at the Ecclesia Network National Gathering

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dw600-nav02_th-1One 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.

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15 responses to “Preaching for the Missional Church: One More Tidbit from Dallas Willard at the Ecclesia Network National Gathering

  1. David, God’s Spirit has spoken into my life many times through your blog. I first became acquainted with you when I stumbled upon your video on planting churches through mission orders.
    Thanks for the post today. I, too, was once a machine gun, rapid fire preacher. Doing simple, relational church for the past 6 years has forced me to redo so much of my ministry – proclaiming and teaching the word, being one among many. Learning how to facilitate conversation centered on God’s word has been an exciting journey. My son once said, “I came to realize that I was not only facilitating a conversation among those gathered, but I was facilitating a conversation between those individuals gathered and the Holy Spirit. Allowing Him to speak to hearts and hearing what He had to say to the group through the conversation.”

    Living an incarnational/missional life is such an exciting challenge. Keep on teaching us what the Spirit reveals to you.

  2. Your post brought to mind a text I read a while ago. Stayed with me for these many years but what a great thought. The comment was made by Merton I believe, something along the lines of while I believe the Gospel message is something we are called on to preach, we will communicate it more intelligently in dialogue. Your sermon in the midst is a powerful example. Thanks for passing this on.

  3. Incidentally, when I speak at METRO I usually sit on a stool on the floor.. we have a small stage but only use it for the band… and I found initially this was great for our unchurched crowd and hard for the “churched” crowd. Now two years later I mostly get comments like, “I feel like I am sitting in your living room” — and this from the “churched” – those who have a history of sitting in our preaching theaters 😉

  4. […] lose so much because of our bent toward efficiency and (apparent) success. David Fitch notes that Dallas Willard changed his preaching style when he recognized that pace and power were […]

  5. Nate,It’s really as simple as the preacher of the day teaches the class at 9 a.m. He or she is infuenced and preaches out of that interaction. My experience is it feeds right in seamlessly, I wish I could give you an example from the last time I preached … but we had a special community meeting that morning during the 9 a.m. .

    Kevin, Chris Backert of ecclesia usually announces times, sessions leaders, headline theme etc. around October/November on the site.

  6. […] [1] Fellow Ecclesia board member David Fitch had some great reflections from two talks by Dallas Willard – one on Missional Evangelism and the other on Preaching. […]

  7. […] want to add to the reflections offered by Rozko, Hiestand, Sternke, Hart, Briggs, Fitch, Chandler, and others on the Ecclesia National Gathering.  They have already offered great […]

  8. David, this is so true. Not just while spreading God's word, but also in daily life too. I chuckled to myself as I read the line where a wile friend of yours prompted you to ease your pace while preaching. Just the other day, I was having a long conversation with my 8 year old son about God's word and what is right and wrong. I got into a long and powerful conversation and told him the things that make him a bad boy and what makes him a good boy. I saw him staring intently at me, and with each passing minute, I gloated over the belief that I was doing a great job. I spoke on and on, faster and faster, intonating my points with strong words and lines. And finally, about a good half an hour later, he asked me, "So when are you going to teach me this language?!!" Gosh, to learn a lesson from an 8 year old can be more crushing than a wisened man. But I learnt my lesson, in mysterious ways. I too, I guess, will have to learn the art of speaking slowly and giving time for the words to sink in.

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