PREACHING SYMPOSIUM @ TTC

The preaching symposium was held on 8,9 March 2018 in celebration of Trinity Theological College’s 70th anniversary. It was one of many other events to be held.

Panel to answer questions n the second day

I saw the publicity information, the titles and speakers at the symposium, and it perked my interest. Topics included: What is Preaching? The Bible and Preaching, Theology of Preaching, Preaching and Liturgy, Preaching as Pastoral Care, Preaching in a Pluralistic Society, and Preaching and Church Growth. The workshops included: Preaching on NT Genre, Preaching on OT Genre, Preaching a word from the Lord, Preaching by Listening to the World, Preaching as Evangelism, and Interest Groups: 1) Preaching to Children 2) Preaching to Youth.

As it turned out more than 400 signed up including the Mandarin version. The English-speaking version was held in the chapel while the Mandarin-speaking version in the multi-purpose hall. I hope the organisers see the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing his servants to this conference. There is a real hunger among pastors to be more effective and faithful in their preaching ministry.

I have always been interested in the craft of preaching and for many decades have read one book a year on average, and even more in some years. So I would consider this symposium as an equivalent to my annual reading.

Anglican Bishop Rennis Ponniah giving his talk

What I liked about it:

The topics were relevant and interesting. They were comprehensive but I came away wishing they had added something about “Preaching and Prayer” and look at the role of silence, solitude and prayer in the formation of the preacher, in sermon preparation, and in gaining insights on Spirit-guided applications. Perhaps another one on, “Preaching to Today’s Audience”.

The panel discussion that answered the questions from the floor were helpful and enlightening. One person asked about the way the preachers in the panel have seen themselves changed in the way they preached today compared to when they first started out. Another great question was about what sea change in the audience that the preachers have observed over their decades of preaching? One answer stood out: today’s church member is consumer-oriented unlike the members from the older generation, who were loyal to their traditions and churches.

The sessions were back to back from morning to late evening, with “no rest for the wicked”. I had to skip a few sessions as I felt over-saturated with information. I also found the session after lunch particularly difficult to pay attention to.

I met my friend Rev Vincent Hoon, an Anglican priest from The Church of True Light

On the whole I was glad with what I gleaned. I would have preferred a wider and comprehensive treatment of the topics. A few of the lecturers picked a key passage as a basis for the support of their talk. This narrowed the number and breadth of the truths they can draw from the limited text. If they had a topical approach, more insights and balance could have been shared about the subject as “all scripture” can be utilised to shed light upon the subject instead of one key passage. For instance the talk on “Preaching as Pastoral Care” used the text in Isaiah 40 where comfort was emphasised and what was communicated was a truncated form of pastoral care: comfort, consolation, support and tenderness. However, real pastoral care included reproof and rebuke, and even church discipline. What is the role of preaching in communicating and implementing discipline? That would have been a helpful facet to learn about!  This was missed out because an expository approach was employed and it was based largely on one passage. Good thing this could be clarified and explained during the panel question and answer. It was the same for the lecture on “Preaching in a Pluralistic Society’ which was based mainly on an exposition of Acts 17:16-24. Perhaps the organisers wanted such an approach as a form of demonstration of how good exposition should support whatever case you make about those subjects, so I do not wish to dwell too much on this issue.

I was impressed that they invited Rev Dr Naomi Dowdy, a well known Pentecostal preacher, former senior pastor of megachurch Trinity Christian Centre, and Chancellor of a theological college, to sit in the panel and share her wisdom. Another woman who made an impression on me was Rev Dr Maggie Low. Her lecture on “The Bible and Preaching” was basic understanding for preachers but her delivery led me to conclude she is one of the best women preachers in the city! She was articulate, passionate and connected well with the audience.

On the whole, I enjoyed it and wished they would organise more of these, more frequently. I applaud the organising committee and say a big thank you to Trinity Theological College for organising this.

 

Preaching to Mandarin congregation

Kenny preaches to Mandarin congregation with Annie the interpreter

I have not preached in the Mandarin service for some years. With the young preachers of the English congregation taking the pulpit regularly as part of their development, I thought it good to deposit something of myself in the Mandarin and deaf congregations. Pastor Edmund the Mandarin congregation pastor welcomed me to preach yesterday.

I began my preparation last week praying for the congregation and thinking about the composition of the group of 60 plus believers. The age groupings, the needs I could imagine such age groups would have, the actual needs that I know of, and the challenges the congregation was facing.

I looked at a few of the messages I preached last year in the English Service and prayerfully thought of using one of them.  Truth is both timely and timeless. So I looked for a sermon with timeless truths that apply to their life situation making them timely!! I finally settled on one message and copied it and renamed the file and started editing it prayerfully. I call this a “microwave sermon”.  The microwave is the prayer preparation and the modifications.

I had to change the number of verses to exposit from five verses to simply one verse. From three main points in the sermon, I focused on two. The message was interpreted so the time taken would be double. I did not want it to be a lengthy sermon so I shortened the passage, and the number of main points.

The applications and the conclusion had to change too. I had to share more illustrations and stories. This modification went on right to the time when the service began. As we stood and worship the Lord in the Mandarin congregation, thoughts flashed by and I had to change the introduction.

The heart of the message remained the same. It was like a house renovation.

In the end, I preached the sermon and enjoyed doing so.  The Spirit was upon me to preach good news to the believers. I hope they enjoyed it and found it inspiring and that the message brought them closer to God.

After the service they had lunch. So I sat down and chatted with a couple there. It was a meaningful Sunday.

Preaching the first person narrative sermon

The first person narrative sermon is one of the more difficult types of sermon to preach. In this form of preaching, the speaker takes on a character in a narrative and speaks in the first person as though he was the character, for example, Abraham or Apollos, Moses or Samson, Esther or Ruth. I have never done a first person narrative sermon before. But Christmas changed this.

Tom Cannon as Mordecai

Recently, one of my colleagues, Tom Cannon, did it and I was impressed by his sermon. He spoke as Mordecai, the uncle of Esther who was used by God to help save the people of Israel. He used an ingenious setting: the opening speech of the Purim festival where he narrated what had happened and why they are celebrating such a festival.

He had to know what he wanted to emphasize, the angle to approach the story. He had to memorize the script and rehearse it. Then he delivered the sermon with a colorful shawl around his shirt. Besides giving a creative kind of “book survey”, it ministered to people at levels beyond the main thrust of his message. This is to be expected, as the narrative sermon, like the parable, is rich and multi-layered in conveying truth.

The first person narrative sermon in the Christmas Service

At the end of the sermons, I got the pastoral team (already out of their costumes) to worship with the congregation

During the Christmas service on 23rd Dec 2017, the whole pastoral team decided to do five first person narrative sermonettes. It was called, “The Voices of Christmas”, with the tagline, five narratives, one story. The pastoral team did Mary, one of the shepherds, one of the magi, King Herod, and angel Gabriel. Each sermonette was about 7 minutes. The order of service began with three songs, followed by two sermonettes, another song, three sermonettes and a closing song. At the end, we had a quiz for the children who were within the service. We gave out gifts for correct answers. For fun, we had a quiz for the adults too. The service ended earlier than usual with O Come All Ye Faithful, and we ended with fellowship and good food.

The pastoral team enjoyed preaching the first person narrative sermons. It took a lot out of them but the sermons were well received by both adults and children. It was a good learning experience for everyone including myself as it was also a first time for me. Initially I baulked at it, and was supposed to summarize and thread together the various strands in a concluding sermonette. But it flashed on my mind that I could do that as Gabriel the archangel. It was nerve wracking and my first draft was too theoretical giving an overview of God’s eternal plan. I realized that at the full-dress rehearsal and so had to redo the whole message and bring it down to a more accessible and practical level. I cried to the Lord and he helped me. I saw that the main characteristic of angels is authority, so I had to sound confident and authoritative to convey angelic presence. I wore all white but could not find wings. It did not matter because it was a sermonette, not a drama. Just symbolic hints would do.

Interesting insights

There are many insights that arise to the fore when we enter the narrative as a character and see, hear, taste, smell, touch and feel. It’s a different kind of exegesis. One that uses the sanctified imagination. These insights are exposed that otherwise would have remained buried treasure if only exegetical analysis was used.

Have you done a first person narrative sermon before? What was your experience like?