I recently wrote a post with some thoughts about starting a new ministry position well. Though I didn’t name preaching specifically, a thoughtfully-considered first sermon is an important piece of a fast start for pulpit ministers.
I heard an example of a great first sermon a couple of weeks ago. (Brag alert: it was delivered by my husband in his new appointment.) Matt started by outlining the different schools of thought about how to approach a first sermon, then told a humorous anecdote about each of his previous first sermons. These stories humanized him and gave his new congregation a sense of his growth as a preacher. They also showed his parishioners that they are meeting up with him mid-ministry. Matt then pointed out that he is joining this church’s narrative – already in progress – and that together they are all locating themselves along the arc of God’s relationship with humankind. Matt gave his hearers the charge to grab different threads of the story of God’s work among us and weave them more tightly into the trajectory of the kingdom, making the fabric stronger and more functional in the process. It was a great way to acknowledge the linking of a pastor’s ministry and a congregation’s mission while honoring all the history that each side brings to the relationship. This kind of sermon takes experience and a strong pastoral identity to preach, and it struck me as very effective.
I’m not often a good (traditional) pastor’s wife, but I certainly was a proud one that day!