Today we begin a series of posts called Preaching Proverbs for Planters. I’ve tapped several church planters to give one piece of advice to those of us who are, or will be, preaching in church planting contexts.
Originally, I imagined that I’d post four pithy proverbs at once. But I’ve decided to give each of these proverbs their own post. I invite you to share them, and engage their authors in the comments.
Gordon Duncan planted Sovereign King Church in Garner, NC in 2005. This year, Gordon began planting Evident Grace Fellowship in the Fredericksburg, VA area. He recently authored Is a Good Man Hard to Find?, a fresh look at Scripture and our practice of raising up godly men. He also has expertise in the eye care industry.
THE ‘CONFUSED PUPPY DOG’ LOOK
About ten years ago, I planted a “Scratch Plant”, which is a fun word for starting a church without any people. That’s a nice way of saying that you are starting a church where no one is interested. But believing that the Gospel is powerful and needs to go into dark and barren places (like my own heart), my wife and I launched out.
By God’s grace, we eventually gathered enough folks to begin services. Most of our initial crowd had very little church background and almost no one knew anything about Reformed theology—my doctrinal tradition.
I remember my first few sermons. I was energetic and tried to engage everyone. My folks were encouraging and appreciative, but they often gave me that confused puppy look during my sermons. You know the one where the puppy just tilts his head sideways.
THE SOLUTION? A PRACTICE, AND A PERSON
Reality and humility set in eventually. Forty-five minute sermons using words like “hypostatic union” were wonderful in seminary. However, in the day to day, they weren’t doing much for my folks. Brevity and simplicity were the proper call.
The challenge was two-fold: I didn’t have to demonstrate my entire seminary education each Sunday, and I needed to learn how to speak important doctrinal truths in a way that folks could take them in, wrestle, and grow.
As always, the solution was Jesus. I shortened my sermons by deleting my need to prove how smart I was. But I did add something: a renewed emphasis on Christ, His work for us, and the hope of the Gospel. That renewed effort led to plenty of great theological growth, and by God’s grace, even led to a few people knowing Jesus personally.
So, now as I plant church number two, I have to keep the same things in mind. This church started with a core group, but their needs (and mine) are the same. We need Christ, and the theology and such will naturally flow if Jesus is lifted up.
What do you think? How have you changed since your first days of preaching? Have you taken a similar course toward simplicity and brevity? Leave a comment or question for Gordon below.
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Come back tomorrow for a Preaching Proverb from Bobby Griffith of City Pres OKC.