Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sermonizing, Preaching, Speaking, Talking, Persuading, Screeching – Part One

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Today’s Blog Post

Sermonizing, Preaching, Speaking, Talking, Persuading, Screeching – Part One

Some of my readers know me personally… many don’t. I must confess that for 36 years I have been a “preacher”. I have served as a Pastor/Minister of Churches in different parts of Canada and South East Asia. As well I have worked at a few different roles that have required me to “speak” and the proper term is “preach” – i.e. give sermons to people that are listen.

As I pen these words I kind of cringe inside as I realize the great changes that have taken place in my culture and in my time.

When I began “preaching” in the small and humble settings that I started in – I was almost the best educated in the crowd. Most people were related to the farms and community surrounding the small town I was the “preacher” in.

As I ‘candidated’ for the position in that small church, it involved in coming to meet with about six men that were the Official Board of the small church. After they approved of that initial meeting/interview, they called me to come on a Sunday to Preach.

Following that they would vote on my possible Pastorship/Preachership/Leasdership with them!

They were going to tell me with this simple act whether they approved of me, my life, my potential ministry, the fact that my future interaction with them at all levels of their life… would be approved by that One Sermon

Imagine One Sermon would be enough to convince 65 people that they might trust their entire life, all their families and most of their private dreams and aspirations based on about 30 minutes of my talking!!!!!

No pressure here! I shudder even with the thought – and that was in 1974 – 36 years ago. That is how deep and terrifying that experience was.

I did go on to do that again and again over the 36 years. The most recent one was in Peterborough, Ontario at Northview church. That happened 12 years ago this year.

In July 1998 I was flown into Toronto from Regina, Saskatchewan. We traveled to Peterborough to begin a weekend of candidating, meeting the good folk of the congregation and trying my very best to IMPRESS them. I didn’t have a clue what this church was all about. Shudder! And these poor people had no idea of who or what I was all about. The KEY THING for them to know… was that… Based Upon my One Sermon on the coming Sunday… they would be required to Vote on ME as their potential new pastor!!!

My Uncle has shared with me, as a fellow minister, that these candidating weekends are known as the “Canary Service”. The little bird is brought in his special cage and then the buyer – looks – listens – inspects the feathers and colour of the little creature before him… then if he or she or they is/are pleased with what they have seen, what they have heard and what they perceive – they BUY IT!

Can you imagine anything so utterly impossible as a Canary Service!!?

Not only does the congregation not have any idea of what they might be getting… neither does the Canary(oops Pastor/Preacher).

On the Canary Service weekend the Canary will choose his best ‘speech/sermon’. His wife has heard it maybe a thousand times. If there are kids involved they have been primed and primped to look and act their best… and not roll their eyes when dad preaches the same sermon again!!!!

That sermon is called the “Royal David” Sermon. It will be exciting, stimulating, touching, moving, thoughtful, insightful, careful not to touch on any of the sins of the congregation but with just a touch of holiness – but not too much to offend the ungodly and enough to let the Godly know that the others might get a good dose of what they really need! Thank you very much.

If the successful condidating Canary stops to think in the middle of his ‘Royal David’ sermon – as result of this one successful sermon you will destroy all the friendships of your kids by ripping them out of their school, community and all that they are perfectly happy in and doing well… YOU MIGHT JUST CHOKE and SPUTTER and put on a less than perfect action of SERMONIZING!!!!

If he stops to think that HE HAS NO IDEA OF THE MESS THAT THESE NICELY DRESSED CHRISTIANS REPRESENT… he would not say what he is about to say. Not only is the Candidate fooling the Congregation – they are doing that for him.

In my case in Peterborough I stepped into a weekend that I found out the church had $1,350,000 Million Dollars Debt that had remained at that level for 18 years – with only the horrendous interest being paid off in that time.

They had been through a nasty break up with a former pastor 4 years before the time I arrived for the Canary Service. For four years they had Interim Pastoral leadership and preaching from four different men. I was told that the church ‘needed a period for healing’. I was also told later that they had already interviewed a stack of candidates – with resumes that were piled four inches thick!!! It was a whole brief case full.

I didn’t find out when I preached that First “Royal David” that there were sex addicts sitting and listening to what I was saying. There were men that had sexually molested women in the church and community – and that they(one he) would continue to do so right up until 2008!

I didn’t know that there were angry people that would stir the pot for the next 10 years and well…. %%&(&$#*&^$ not leave it but savour everyone of their outbursts!

I didn’t really know that the audience in this last church I was to candidate for – 25 years after the first was entirely different. Sitting in my Canary Audience that July in 1998 were no less than 10 Doctrates in all things theological. There were many professionals that had their University Degrees that carried way more weight than anything I had ever studied.

The only thing that I had that they didn’t… I could speak rudimentary Chinese… enough to get me into trouble but not out of trouble. I had to be the least likely candidate for this place out of all the candidates that they had interviewed. Absolutely!

But I walked confidently to the platform, did my thing, preached my “Royal David”, fluffed my Canary Feathers so I looked good.. then waited in the office after the service to see what the vote would bring to me. YES – They voted right after the morning service!!!!

When the other minister that was conducting the Vote that day brought back the results to us… he passed me the ballot results and asked, “Do you think that this is high enough for you to come as Pastor to this church?”

I looked at the small scribbled note, that simply bore “98.6%”.

The emotions were overwhelming to say the least. As we returned the sanctuary to offer our acceptance of this overwhelmingly positive vote I wanted to scream… “But how can you know? You don’t know me! I don’t know me!” But I didn’t. I simply stated that I was humbled by the confidence that they had stated today.

My salary from the one church to this new one doubled in a heart beat. Pretty cool – ONE SERMON did that!

Today I cannot remember the sermon. I remember almost vomiting and wanting to die when I walked from the sanctuary to that office to wait on a vote.

Some told me that day, “Well Pastor, I will pray for you as you come here. You are going to have your hands full!” then he walked away and I never saw him again. He may well have been one of the 1.4%.... or known something that I didn’t and would find out later. And did I ever… but so did they.

For the next few days I am going to tell you more about Sermons, Preaching, Speeches, Talks, Persuasion, Screeches(as one former minister said) and you name it… it will be dealt with here.

A whole lot has changed in 36 years of Preaching… and the changes are not over yet!

My friend David, a former Preacher, is going to share some huge background on preaching. Don’t miss it!

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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Addendum by Murray…
Sermonizing is a huge miracle in the church – where a preacher prepares something he thinks he should say – and the Holy Spirit works in spite of it – and even possibly because of it!

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