Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Getting into preaching

Well, I survived my preaching class. I have intentionally used the word "survived" because that is how it feels. It met 5 hours a day, every day for two weeks. During that time, we had to read 5 books, write two papers - one 5-7 pages, one 15 pages, write and preach two 12-17 minute sermons, and preach two extemporaneous 5 minute sermons with little prep time. All scriptures for sermons were assigned, and the texts for the 5 minute sermons were assigned just before the break, and had to be preached after the break - 15 minutes prep time!

Don't misunderstand...I learned a ton in the class, but we all felt pretty abused. The professor was from another culture, and was promoting a style much different than that with which most of the class had experience. As she critiqued the sermons, she tended to harp on the errors (from her perspective) that she observed. It would have been enough to state the error and move on, but she would hammer on it for a good ten minutes or more. I felt so bad for the speakers that had to endure such abuse. One student ended the two weeks with bronchitis/pneumonia she felt was purely from the stress of the class. Running short or long of the 12-17 minutes was a guaranteed C or worse on the sermon. The professor said she "Loves preachers," but her behavior sure didn't show it.

It all made me very appreciative of one of the cultural phenomena of our seminary. There seems to be an unwritten rule among most of the professors that I have had that affirmation is essential. They seem to recognize that more can be achieved through positive reinforcement than through negative.

Well, I did come out of the class with two written sermons, one of which I preached for real this past Sunday, and one that I will preach next Sunday. I'm filling the pulpit for a friend who is leading a VIM trip to Bay St. Louis, MS. If you want to come hear me, send me an email privately and I can give you times and places. Hipchickmamma has suggested I post my sermons, but they're too long. I have translated one of them into Spanish as well, as I was told that one of the churches has a woman who speaks little English. I thought she could follow along and get a chance to "hear" (read) the sermon, too. She wasn't there. :-) But it was a good exercise. I've been needing to brush up my Spanish, and it really helped set the sermon in my mind. I'll probably do it again this week.

And I have decided I DO enjoy preaching. I wasn't sure before, but now that I have a few more tools instead of just the OJT that I've used before, the process is much more enjoyable. I got that much from the class.