Preaching on Character, Formation, Spirituality, and Advent

I published five sermon series over the years, all listed at the Reformed Worship website under my name. The church is vital to any movement bent on equipping missional Christian academics, and participation in worship is part of my ordinary, weekly spiritual formation. You can find the sermon series here–feel free to use them in your own context.

I have been a campus pastor, denominational officer, a Christian college instructor, but never a church pastor. I’ve been preaching since 1995, when as a graduate student in sociology at Queen’s University the local Christian Reformed Church asked a few of us grad students to help with the preaching. The pastor at the time was suddenly diagnosed with an illness that removed him from the pulpit, and we filled in for him. It was a tremendous privilege and joy, and we seemed to be appreciated by the congregation: fresh young voices of faith meditating on scripture texts, using our academic and teaching gifts for the good of the congregation.

My daughters and their friend on our church sign, Guelph, Ontario.

I’ve since preached in most corners of North America, especially when I worked as a campus ministry leader for the Christian Reformed Church denomination, travelling from campus to campus across the continent. When that role ended, I soon became part of a voluntary “preaching team” in my local congregation in Guelph–consisting of 3 to 7 members, depending on the year. I think a preaching team is wonderful idea, and it develops the teaching skills of various congregation members while giving a pastor relief from the pressure to perform every Sunday of the year. It is “the priesthood of all believers” clearly demonstrated in the weekly liturgy, and the pulpit starts to speak to a wider demographic as different preachers touch different people in different ways. Or I should say: the dynamic of the Spirit and Word has multiple fresh opportunities to delight and challenge.

For many years we prepared worship series together as a team, with music leaders present to add their creative ideas to the process of developing a series. Then the music, texts, titles, and other arts came together in organic, communal fashion from the start. It was the body of Christ working in concert to help our brothers and sisters draw their attention to Christ and his redemptive work in their life and in the world.

Indeed, there are some liabilities. Some preachers are stronger than others, and some congregation members can pick favourites and turn it into a competition. Some pastoral connection from the pulpit can weaken, as all preachers are not pastors in the congregation. Finally, there is a loss of consistency, although I believe our strong themes and series functioned to keep a thread going from Sunday to Sunday.

We don’t do it that way anymore in our congregation–for various reasons–but it did seem like an ideal at work for the years we had it–at least in terms of living the body of Christ in Sunday worship. It was most effective and helpful, of course, when we were in-between full-time salaried pastors. These five sermon series here arose out of that team effort, and now these creative offerings have been used by congregations all over–the world, I imagine. Its a form of fruitfulness in ministry that brings me delight. I hope they continue to bless many parishes!

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