Experimental format looks at traditional worship element–the sermon

Published: November 19, 2012

Mary E. Klassen

This fall Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is using an experimental format to look at one of the most traditional elements of Christian worship—the sermon.

The seminar experiments with ways of meeting. The group gathered on campus for two days in October and will meet together again the day before AMBS’s Pastors Week begins in late January. Between these meetings, an interactive video conference is scheduled.

Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, AMBS associate dean for leadership education, coordinates this offering. She said, “We hope this format will make AMBS resources more accessible without the investment of time, money and travel to gather in one place more often.”

Preaching Seminar involves seven pastors and Allan Rudy-Froese, assistant professor of Christian Proclamation, exploring how to enliven preaching when pastors have several years of experience.

“If you are a solo pastor, you don’t get to hear anybody else preach,” Rudy-Froese explained. “Even if you are in a ministry team, you’re in a limited pool of preachers. In this seminar, participants get to hear each other and have others reflect on their work.”

Preaching usually ranks at the top of the list of important tasks for a preacher, Rudy-Froese noted. Congregations allow a pastor between five to ten hours a week to prepare a 20-minute sermon, so this seminar gives preachers opportunity to assess what is effective with others who are at the same place in their experience.

Questions they explore include:

  • How do they prepare a sermon?
  • What style do they use?
  • What can they learn about themselves by examining a sermon already preached?
  • What does the sermon show about their theology of God?
  • What does the sermon show about their view of the Bible?
  • How can a sermon be made better?

As a way to answer these questions, each participant will repeat for the group a sermon they have already preached. In addition, the participants read and discuss two books that reflect where preaching is going for the future and what can be learned from the past.

When this Preaching Seminar concludes, participants will evaluate their experience to assess how effective the combined on-campus and online approach is. Rudy-Froese and Longenecker hope to offer the seminar in other locations with groups of pastors in a region or conference. Approaches to the content can vary, including narrative, missional or prophetic preaching or the story in the sermon.

More information about Preaching Seminar is available on the AMBS website: www.ambs.edu/churchleadershipcenter.

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