Preaching

Preaching with the prayer book

Despite a (hopefully undeserved) reputation as the lowest of low church, pseudo-baptistical despisers of Anglican forms, plenty of evangelical Anglicans minister and preach in services shaped by a prayer book, even following a lectionary. In this paper first presented at the Preaching Seminars, run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, David McLennan shares some ways to preach effectively in this context.

"You might need to put up with it for a while, just to keep the 8 o’clock congregation onside. But obviously your ultimate goal should be to replace a liturgical service with something more contemporary."

If you’ve been in evangelical circles for a while, you’ve almost certainly heard some version of this conventional ministry wisdom. Hostility to liturgical forms has become one of the curious hallmarks of Australian evangelicalism.

And it’s a hallmark I’ve personally come to reject. As an Anglican minister who has benefited enormously from the likes of J.I. Packer, Charles Simeon and Thomas Cranmer (not to mention the church fathers); as a Christian who needs both word and sacrament, and as a person who is more than just a rational mind, I’ve come to see the Anglican prayer book tradition as a great ally to gospel ministry. It is theologically rich, pastorally wise and even, in our particular cultural moment, missionally powerful.

But what happens when an evangelical, nurtured in a sub-culture that has an allergic response to anything resembling a formal liturgy, finds themselves ministering in a more recognizably Anglican context? In particular, how might this new context impact their preaching?

For as any preacher knows, context is key. No homiletical approach is well suited to every context. My own sense is that evangelicals need to be very careful about assuming the preaching model they learned in their liturgically-sparse homeland can be transplanted into any context.

Because even if I’m right that an Anglican prayer book service is a good thing—a gospel-centred, orthodoxy-preserving and pedagogically effective thing—it is still a particular kind of thing. It makes sense that a prayer book preacher should consider not only the context of the passage on which the sermon is based, but also the context of the sermon itself.

For the best part of a decade, I’ve been worshipping and ministering in Anglican churches with a more liturgical bent, and now I find myself as rector of a parish with a strong prayer book identity. I’ve come to appreciate how the gospel shape of a prayer book service supports the gospel content we seek to proclaim. But it does require the cultivation of particular homiletical skills which are not always part of the evangelical’s toolbox. So here are four lessons I’ve been learning (usually the hard way) about what works—and doesn’t— in settings like this.

1. Small is beautiful

Part of the beauty of the Prayer Book is that the typical Sunday service includes a lot: up to four scripture readings, a creed, various prayers, a confession and absolution, Holy Communion, notices, some songs, and maybe a children’s spot.

This is a lot of content, and time can easily blow out. This is really not the place for a 40-minute sermon. Nor a 30-minute sermon. Nor a 25-minute sermon. Personally, I think 20 minutes is the absolute upper limit, 15 minutes is a far better goal, and even 12 minutes is not necessarily something to feel guilty about.

The mantra ‘sermonettes produce Christianettes!’ is likely to be deployed in response to such a claim, and there is much truth in it. But this can overlook two important things: firstly, that the Sunday sermon should not be expected to carry the entire burden of the church’s teaching ministry; and secondly, that many a ‘sermonette’ has lasted 30 minutes or more.

Length alone is a poor way to measure the seriousness of a sermon. If a sermon is superficial and unfocussed, lacks biblical insight and human empathy and is meandering and insensitive, more time won’t save it. It will just enhance its power to make the congregation dislike you more.

By contrast, I believe that reducing sermon length while maintaining impact is very possible. The real obstacle to shorter sermons is that they are very difficult and time-consuming for the preacher. They require more, not less, preparation.

I am suggesting that part of the burden we should carry in our preaching ministry is the burden of giving our sermons a very thorough edit: forcing ourselves to ruthlessly cut all that is not necessary for edification; focusing like a laser on one main point, and avoiding tangents. (Because economy of words is so important, I find a full text helps me to avoid wasting time searching for the right phrase, or repeating myself unnecessarily.)

Much of this is good practice anyway, but it also means that when the sermon ends, people may feel sad it is over, rather than sad it took so long.

2. Use the liturgy

Preachers are always on the lookout for examples that can make their point come alive to the hearer. One of the benefits of a prayer book service is that the sermon is nestled within a gathering that is full of such examples: words and actions that pull in the same direction as the preached word.

So, when looking for illustrations it’s a good idea to consider the phrases and moments that are regularly (but not, always thoughtfully) repeated. For example, when preaching on our relationships with one another, why not use the greeting of peace to press the point home? 

When preaching on the ascension, why not refer to the words in the thanksgiving prayer: ‘Lift up your hearts!’ When preaching about the centrality of the gospel, why not explain why we stand during the gospel reading?

And then of course there is Holy Communion. Is there be a better way to preach our dependence on Christ than to remind our people that we shall soon be nourished by him in the Lord’s Supper? Is there a better way to speak of the Jesus’ sacrifice than to remind them of the solemn night when he broke bread with his friends? Is there any physical act that provides a better experience of the gospel than coming forward with empty hands, and finding in Jesus’ death and sacrifice the sustenance we need? Maybe there is, but I can’t think of it.

When these liturgical or sacramental moments are integrated into our teaching, it can liberate them from the sphere of ‘mere habit’ to become discipleship tools that will continue to work years into the future.

3. The church year and lectionary are your friends

Most prayer book churches also preach according to the lectionary and observe the seasons of the church year. These are additional ways that the gospel story can be brought to the people year after year. Theologian Scott McKnight says that the church year:

‘is all about the Story of Jesus, and I know of nothing – other than the regular soaking in the Bible – that can ‘gospelize’ our life more than the church calendar … Anyone who is half aware of the church calendar … will be exposed every year to the whole gospel.’ 1
In this context it makes sense to locate the day’s preaching emphasis with at least one eye on the bigger story that is being narrated each year.

Similarly, the lectionary, when used well, can be a great ally. While it’s often said that sequential preaching through a book helps the preacher avoid hobby horses, my own observation is that no method guarantees this. It is disturbingly easy to preach through book after book and barely touch on the doctrines of the Trinity, or the two natures of Christ, or the virgin birth, or the sacraments – or many other things which our forebears thought essential for the Christian to understand.

While the lectionary is not a foolproof device, if used well (not slavishly and inflexibly) it provides scope for covering, each year, the great doctrines of the Christian life, while at the same time walking us through the life of Christ. And it still provides considerable freedom to preach through books – the pattern with which many evangelicals are more familiar.

Informed use is the key. For example, the seasons of Advent–Pentecost are ideally suited to more theological preaching, centred around the gospel reading. The Sundays after Pentecost are a good chance to return to sermon series through particular books. (For more guidance on wise use of the lectionary, see O’Day and Hackett, ‘Preaching through the Revised Common Lectionary’, Abingdon Press, 2007.)

It is also good to find ways to unify, as far as possible, the different texts – up to four – that are read during the service. Tim Keller insists that each text has a ‘surplus of meanings’. So it makes sense to allow the church calendar and lectionary to bias our exegetical focus, so that the readings work in harmony with each other rather than at seeming disconnected.

The person who believes in the self-authenticating quality of Scripture will not feel compelled to explain every passage in detail. But where possible, passing reference to the various readings of the day helps demonstrate how Scripture’s many different voices all testify in unison to the same bigger story.

4. Jesus (not the text) is the hero

Much evangelical preaching tenaciously clings to a single text, so that the structure of the text determines the structure of the sermon itself. While a good method in some contexts, this isn’t usually well-suited to a prayer book service due to the shortage of time and the abundance of Scripture readings. It’s worth remembering that the task of the sermon is to edify - not simply to explain a particular text. In the end, it’s more important that our people are gripped by the hope proclaimed in Romans 8, than that they understand the structure and word choices used in Romans 8.

The best prayer book preaching, therefore, shows the sort of freedom we find in the apostolic preaching in Acts, i.e. preaching which regards the text as authoritative, but does not get bogged down in historical-grammatical exegesis or a desire to explain the text in detail. Other contexts (e.g. the Bible study group) are better suited for that. In the sermon, it’s best to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is always centred on Christ and his saving work, and my advice is unapologetically to lift people above the weeds of detailed exegesis, and show them the wider theological landscape to which the text refers. It may feel a bit naughty the first time you do it, but it’s worth persevering.

Conclusion

Besides being an expectation of Anglican clergy, our Anglican liturgical forms are a great gift to the gospel preacher when used thoughtfully. But they also require us to be reflective and open to re-evaluating how we think about ministry—including the preaching ministry. This can lead to the discovery that, when word and sacrament operate alongside each other, the minds and hearts of our people are saturated in the gospel in a more holistic way. And who knows? This saturating process might have the added advantage of drowning a few unnecessary evangelical shibboleths about liturgy. Your 8 o’clock congregation will thank you.



1. Scott McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan, 2011) p.155

Finding your voice

Seasoned preachers Peter Adam (Principal of Ridley  Melbourne), Glenn Davies (Bishop of North Sydney and Chairman of EFAC Australia) and Kanishka Raffel (Rector of St Matthew’s Shenton Park, Perth) talk about their preaching role models and methods of preparation with Wei-Han Kuan.

Most young preachers can readily identify their early role models, those preachers whose ministry greatly affected and inspired them. Novice preachers often consciously or unconsciously mimic the patterns of preaching in their heroes. John Stott reckoned that it takes about ten years of preaching before the preacher finds their own voice. I was interested in this dynamic and earlier this year asked three experienced preachers to talk about their role models and methods of preparation.
Thanks for agreeing to discuss this. Let’s start with role model preachers. Who were your’s?
Peter. Four bachelors!
John Stott, who came to Australia for the CMS Summer Schools in January 1965, and expounded 2 Corinthians. I had not heard a book of the Bible expounded before. It was my call to the ministry, and also provided the model of ministry I wanted to do.
Archdeacon John Moroney, who preached varied powerful, memorable, and convincing Biblical sermons, at Williamstown and Hawthorn, each
one perfectly suited to the text being expounded.
Dick Lucas, of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, for his marvelously incisive insights into the Bible, and into its application.
John Chapman, for his example of evangelism, human engagement of preacher and people, and for finding an Australian model of preaching.
Glenn. John Stott also! He was a model preacher for me in my youth, with his memorable three-point outlines and several subdivisions. I’ve never heard a better preacher for organising his material into a sermon.

What TED talks teach the preacher

You have been under a rock too long if you have not watched a TED talk or two. In this paper, first presented at the Preaching Seminars run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, Jonathan Holt, Senior Minister at Lanyon Valley Anglican Church, summarises what makes TED talks tick, and what we might learn from them in preparing to preach.

Last year I was in Frankfurt airport coming back from a holiday in Austria. My wife had been at a work conference and we had visited our Church’s Mission Partners, who are serving the Lord in Linz. While waiting for a connecting flight, we browsed in the airport bookshop and I saw the book: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo, published in 2014.

One of the reasons why I picked it up was the thought I had, not long after encountering TED talks online, that the TED talk format was, in many ways, a secular sermon. In an age when the sustained monologue is regularly derided as no longer relevant, engaging or useful, TED talks stood out as an example of one place, one popular venue, where that sort of critique of the monologue might not hold up.

In the TED talk we can hear one person deliver an uninterrupted monologue, moving in the world of ideas; aiming to change attitudes and behavior; seeking to engage and inspire listeners. It sounds a whole lot like what I am trying to do in my sermons. I had wondered whether what was going on in the TED talk might be worth studying for the insights it could yield into how I might give a Christian TED talk at church on Sunday.

And now, in the airport bookstore in Frankfurt, I held in my hand the book that promised it had done all the research for me – and what’s more, it was in English, and not German – which was going to save me heaps of time. Gallo writes in the Introduction: “After analyzing more than 500 TED presentations (more than 150 hours) and speaking directly to successful TED speakers, I’ve discovered that the most popular TED presentations share nine common elements.”

Gallo is saying that there are transferable lessons from TED talks, you don’t have to be Bono or Bill Gates, you don’t have to have recovered from a massive brain injury or some equally inspiring story – if we join Gallo in his analysis we can dissect the great secular sermon and maybe learn something we can use Sunday by Sunday.

You have been under a rock too long if you have not watched a TED talk or two. In this paper, first presented at the Preaching Seminars run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, Jonathan Holt, Senior Minister at Lanyon Valley Anglican Church, summarises what makes TED talks tick, and what we might learn from them in preparing to preach.

A Brief History of TED 1

The first TED event was in 1984. The brain-child of Richard Saul Wurman, that very first, one-off event included a demonstration of the compact disc and the e-book. The event lost money and Wurman and his partner Harry Marks waited until 1990 to have another go. Back at the beginning not only were the speakers invited, the attendees were invitation only – and they still paid to attend.

The conference became an annual event and 2001 Chris Anderson, founder of the Sapling Foundation, bought the whole TED package. He continued what had grown up: a four-day event with 50 speakers giving nothing longer than an 18 minute presentation. In 2005 they went global with sister conferences around the world. One year on, TED got a dot-com domain and posted six talks as a trial to see if there was any interest. There was, and six month later 40 talks were available to watch, garnering over three million views. In 2009 The TED organization began granting licenses to third parties to run local, community-level TEDx events. By 2012 the website had hit one billion views and TEDx events are run in over 130 countries.

Purpose for TED and for Gallo

TED, as a not-for-profit, devoted itself to the spreading of ideas. Gallo argues, at the opening of his book, that ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. Gallo writes that: “Ideas, effectively packaged and delivered, can change the world.” TED envisions itself as a place for learning that leads to change.

Gallo references the 1915, Dale Carnegie book, The Art of Public Speaking, as a touchstone for this present work. He recognizes that much of the advice Carnegie gave is still the same (keep it short, use stories, etc) but now we have science to back it up. Gallo’s claim is that: “The secrets revealed in this book are supported by the latest science from the best minds on the planet, and they work.” Gallo reveals his benchmarks: science and pragmatism.

The Three Big Ideas

The TED talk and the Bible talk have this common goal: taking an idea in the heart and head of the speaker and transferring it into the heart and head of the listener. What will make my idea, found there in the Bible, be most likely to stick for the person who listens to me?

Gallo follows the ‘Rule of Three’ (p191) – that we humans can remember three things better than we can four or five things – and he groups his nine key elements into three groups of three. So let’s consider the three big headings to see how Gallo answers the “what makes the talk stick in the heart and mind of the listener?”

Firstly, he says go for the emotions – aim to touch the heart. In this section Gallo spends time on the power of stories – how turning the idea into its story enables a connection. Gallo argues that this creates a lasting impression, because it is anchored in the emotion-mirroring of the listener. Gallo reports the scientific studies, which point to listeners experiencing the same emotions as those of the story-teller (this is why we cry in sad movies). Rather than leave it to chance, Gallo suggests that all speakers need to plan for and include stories – not merely for their illustrative power, but for their emotional strength.

How do we preachers use emotion in our preaching? Do we even show emotion while we preach? The Christian message comes as story – the gospel is a full flesh-and-blood human, with a story and with emotions. If we went to your church website and listened to the last five sermons, what emotion words would we hear? What would we hear in your tone that told us how you felt about the Lord Jesus?

Secondly, Gallo says that something new is more likely to stick. Here we are urged to unleash an emotionally charged event, or a jaw dropping moment. Our brains devour newness. Things that are familiar or commonplace will be quickly ignored by our super-smart brains, which filter out things we’ve already noticed and thought about.

In the TED context, Gallo reports those moments in talks that had the audience spell-bound. Either some fact that seems counter-intuitive or some information presented in a new way. The surprising newness engages the human brain, so that it takes notice, and is perhaps more likely to store that information away.

In this area the weekly work of preparing a Bible study or sermon appears to work against us. We certainly don’t want to present the latest fad in theology, giving itching ears what they want, but we may find something new in the less familiar. It may be new content – like opening up a book of the Bible your listeners are unfamiliar with, or it could be packaged differently – approaching a familiar passage looking to reinvest it with the strangeness or surprising twist that it already has.

Thirdly, we are invited to make it memorable. Here Gallo promotes the use of multi-sensory tools – how we can see, smell, taste or touch the ideas we are hearing. Engaging multiple senses increases the likelihood of an idea sticking for the listener. If you use pictures during your sermon, then you already do this. If you take the time to invoke the smells and experience of the stories you tell, then you are already doing this.

Gallo presents TED talk’s eighteen-minute rule in this section of the book. As with the other tips this one is given some science, the first of which is that listening is draining. The longer the speaker goes for the harder it becomes for the listener to continue processing and staying engaged. We know this experientially when we hear the long-form sermon provide something lighter as a break mid-way through the sermon. On the flipside, Gallo observes that the constraint of eighteen minutes provides “…a focus and a framework for creativity to flourish.” In aiming to avoid the meandering or convoluted presentation, Gallo favours the discipline of taking things out to fit the time constraint.

There is, most likely, a bigger conversation to be had here about the ideal length of the sermon (and whether such an ideal even exists), however it is interesting to apply Gallo’s observations about the benefits of 18 minute talks to the work of preaching, and also the work of listening to the preacher.

Some concluding thoughts

What do you think are your best tools for making your sermon memorable? Is that something you’re even aiming for? You probably know the old analogy that hearing sermons is like eating dinners – lots of them are not super-memorable, but they are nourishing – then there are a few, and because of the setting and meaning they stay in our memory. I wonder if this same analogy works for TED talks as well as it works for sermons?

One of the fundamental differences between the TED talk and the regular preacher is the reality that crafting an individual TED talk for maximum impact is different to regular Bible teaching. If you only had to deliver one sermon you might treat that one talk in the same way that a TED presenter does their talk. And yet Gallo often refers to the reader who is in the business setting, where Gallo coaches people in the art of presentation. In that setting multiple presentations would be expected, se we can presume that Gallo believes his advice is good beyond the one-off TED Talk.

A second significant difference is the level of pastoral relationship between the preacher and congregation compared with the relational expectations of the audience at a TED event. The larger work of discipleship-in-relationship, which takes place for us in and around our preaching is different to how a TED presenter hopes to change the world through ideas. Our goal is community-based formation (rather than event-based formation), and our power for change is the Spirit of Christ (instead of the unrenewed intellect). However there is overlap at the point of presenting the ideas, so let’s learn whatever we can.

The existence of TED Talks is a powerful argument that the sustained monologue is not as dead as we were being told. However, the tools in our toolbox might be limited or under utilised. I know I have benefited from thinking more about the lessons from TED Talks in the development of my preaching.


1. This history has been compiled from Gallo’s book and the TED website.

Last year I was in Frankfurt airport coming back from a holiday in Austria. My wife had been at a work conference and we had visited our Church’s Mission Partners, who are serving the Lord in Linz. While waiting for a connecting flight, we browsed in the airport bookshop and I saw the book: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo, published in 2014. One of the reasons why I picked it up was the thought I had, not long after encountering TED talks online, that the TED talk format was, in many ways, a secular sermon. In an age when the sustained monologue is regularly derided as no longer relevant, engaging or useful, TED talks stood out as an example of one place, one popular venue, where that sort of critique of the monologue might not hold up. In the TED talk we can hear one person deliver an uninterrupted monologue, moving in the world of ideas; aiming to change attitudes and behavior; seeking to engage and inspire listeners. It sounds a whole lot like what I am trying to do in my sermons. I had wondered whether what was going on in the TED talk might be worth studying for the insights it could yield into how I might give a Christian TED talk at church on Sunday. And now, in the airport bookstore in Frankfurt, I held in my hand the book that promised it had done all the research for me – and what’s more, it was in English, and not German – which was going to save me heaps of time. Gallo writes in the Introduction: “After analyzing more than 500 TED presentations (more than 150 hours) and speaking directly to successful TED speakers, I’ve discovered that the most popular TED presentations share nine common elements.” Gallo is saying that there are transferable lessons from TED talks, you don’t have to be Bono or Bill Gates, you don’t have to have recovered from a massive brain injury or some equally inspiring story – if we join Gallo in his analysis we can dissect the great secular sermon and maybe learn something we can use Sunday by Sunday. What TED talks teach the preacher Jonathan Holt You have been under a rock too long if you have not watched a TED talk or two. In this paper, first presented at the Preaching Seminars run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, Jonathan Holt, Senior Minister at Lanyon Valley Anglican Church, summarises what makes TED talks tick, and what we might learn from them in preparing to preach. FEATURES PAGE 7 ESSENTIALS - AUTUMN 2018 A Brief History of TED 1 The first TED event was in 1984. The brain-child of Richard Saul Wurman, that very first, one-off event included a demonstration of the compact disc and the e-book. The event lost money and Wurman and his partner Harry Marks waited until 1990 to have another go. Back at the beginning not only were the speakers invited, the attendees were invitation only – and they still paid to attend. The conference became an annual event and 2001 Chris Anderson, founder of the Sapling Foundation, bought the whole TED package. He continued what had grown up: a four-day event with 50 speakers giving nothing longer than an 18 minute presentation. In 2005 they went global with sister conferences around the world. One year on, TED got a dot-com domain and posted six talks as a trial to see if there was any interest. There was, and six month later 40 talks were available to watch, garnering over three million views. In 2009 The TED organization began granting licenses to third parties to run local, community-level TEDx events. By 2012 the website had hit one billion views and TEDx events are run in over 130 countries. Purpose for TED and for Gallo TED, as a not-for-profit, devoted itself to the spreading of ideas. Gallo argues, at the opening of his book, that ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. Gallo writes that: “Ideas, effectively packaged and delivered, can change the world.” TED envisions itself as a place for learning that leads to change. Gallo references the 1915, Dale Carnegie book, The Art of Public Speaking, as a touchstone for this present work. He recognizes that much of the advice Carnegie gave is still the same (keep it short, use stories, etc) but now we have science to back it up. Gallo’s claim is that: “The secrets revealed in this book are supported by the latest science from the best minds on the planet, and they work.” Gallo reveals his benchmarks: science and pragmatism. The Three Big Ideas The TED talk and the Bible talk have this common goal: taking an idea in the heart and head of the speaker and transferring it into the heart and head of the listener. What will make my idea, found there in the Bible, be most likely to stick for the person who listens to me? Gallo follows the ‘Rule of Three’ (p191) – that we humans can remember three things better than we can four or five things – and he groups his nine key elements into three groups of three. So let’s consider the three big headings to see how Gallo answers the “what makes the talk stick in the heart and mind of the listener?” Firstly, he says go for the emotions – aim to touch the heart. In this section Gallo spends time on the power of stories – how turning the idea into its story enables a connection. Gallo argues that this creates a lasting impression, because it is anchored in the emotion-mirroring of the listener. Gallo reports the scientific studies, which point to listeners experiencing the same emotions as those of the story-teller (this is why we cry in sad movies). Rather than leave it to chance, Gallo suggests that all speakers need to plan for and include stories – not merely for their illustrative power, but for their emotional strength. How do we preachers use emotion in our preaching? Do we even show emotion while we preach? The Christian message comes as story – the gospel is a full flesh-and-blood human, with a story and with emotions. If we went to your church website and listened to the last five sermons, what emotion words would we hear? What would we hear in your tone that told us how you felt about the Lord Jesus? Secondly, Gallo says that something new is more likely to stick. Here we are urged to unleash an emotionally charged event, or a jaw dropping moment. Our brains devour newness. Things that are familiar or commonplace will be quickly ignored by our super-smart brains, which filter out things we’ve already noticed and thought about. In the TED context, Gallo reports those moments in talks that had the audience spell-bound. Either some fact that seems counter-intuitive or some information presented in a new way. The surprising newness engages the human brain, so that it takes notice, and is perhaps more likely to store that information away. In this area the weekly work of preparing a Bible study or sermon appears to work against us. We certainly don’t want to present the latest fad in theology, giving itching ears what they want, but we may find something new in the less familiar. It may be new content – like opening up a book of the Bible your listeners are unfamiliar with, or it could be packaged differently – approaching a familiar passage looking to reinvest it with the strangeness or surprising twist that it already has. Thirdly, we are invited to make it memorable. Here Gallo promotes the use of multi-sensory tools – how we can see, smell, taste or touch the ideas we are hearing. Engaging multiple senses increases the likelihood of an idea sticking for the listener. If you use pictures during your sermon, then you already do this. If you take the time to invoke the smells and experience of the stories you tell, then you are already doing this. Photo: by urban data, Used under creative commons licence, flickr.com/photos/urban_data/8899256033 Gallo presents TED talk’s eighteen-minute rule in this section of the book. As with the other tips this one is given some science, the first of which is that listening is draining. The longer the speaker goes for the harder it becomes for the listener to continue processing and staying engaged. We know this experientially when we hear the long-form sermon provide something lighter as a break mid-way through the sermon. On the flipside, Gallo observes that the constraint of eighteen minutes provides “…a focus and a framework for creativity to flourish.” In aiming to avoid the meandering or convoluted presentation, Gallo favours the discipline of taking things out to fit the time constraint. There is, most likely, a bigger conversation to be had here about the ideal length of the sermon (and whether such an ideal even exists), however it is interesting to apply Gallo’s observations about the benefits of 18 minute talks to the work of preaching, and also the work of listening to the preacher. Some concluding thoughts What do you think are your best tools for making your sermon memorable? Is that something you’re even aiming for? You probably know the old analogy that hearing sermons is like eating dinners – lots of them are not super-memorable, but they are nourishing – then there are a few, and because of the setting and meaning they stay in our memory. I wonder if this same analogy works for TED talks as well as it works for sermons? One of the fundamental differences between the TED talk and the regular preacher is the reality that crafting an individual TED talk for maximum impact is different to regular Bible teaching. If you only had to deliver one sermon you might treat that one talk in the same way that a TED presenter does their talk. And yet Gallo often refers to the reader who is in the business setting, where Gallo coaches people in the art of presentation. In that setting multiple presentations would be expected, se we can presume that Gallo believes his advice is good beyond the one-off TED Talk. A second significant difference is the level of pastoral relationship between the preacher and congregation compared with the relational expectations of the audience at a TED event. The larger work of discipleship-in-relationship, which takes place for us in and around our preaching is different to how a TED presenter hopes to change the world through ideas. Our goal is community-based formation (rather than event-based formation), and our power for change is the Spirit of Christ (instead of the unrenewed intellect). However there is overlap at the point of presenting the ideas, so let’s learn whatever we can. The existence of TED Talks is a powerful argument that the sustained monologue is not as dead as we were being told. However, the tools in our toolbox might be limited or under utilised. I know I have benefited from thinking more about the lessons from TED Talks in the development of my preaching. 1. This history has been compiled from Gallo’s book and the TED website

Listening to the Preaching of God s Word

One way to open ourselves afresh to the word of grace.
Read books on spiritual formation and you will be hard pressed to find any that list listening to the preaching of God's Word as a first-order spiritual discipline. It may be mentioned under the broader category of reading and studying the Bible. But listening to preaching deserves attention of its own.
This was clearly a crucial dimension of the early church's life-"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). Certainly the leaders of the Reformation felt that way. They placed primary attention on public teaching and preaching. Karl Barth, writing to the well-educated West, regarded the proclamation of the Word as one of the three fundamental ways that people experience the life-changing Word of God.
In addition to biblical and theological aspects, we might consider some practical aspects of preaching-particularly expository preaching, preaching that strives to convey the meaning of biblical truth-that can help us see it as a vital spiritual discipline that humbly grounds us in the work and Word of God:

Sermon at the Ordination and Installation of Richard Condie as Bishop of Tasmania

Sermon at the ordination and installation of Richard Condie as Bishop of Tasmania on 19th March 2016.

Peter Adam

We are here to pray. This is a prayer meeting. We are here to pray for you Richard, because for those who are members of the Anglican tribe in Tasmania, you are becoming our Bishop, and we owe you a warm welcome and our prayers for you this and every day. We are here to pray for you, because for some of us we are welcoming you to the Tasmanian community. We are here to pray for you, because some of us are your family and your friends. And we are here to pray for you, because we belong to the Anglican Church of Australia, and recognise you as a valued friend and colleague in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Possibly the most powerful thing any of us will do today is to pray for you. Because our powerful and gracious heavenly Father is always ready to hear and answer our prayers, and to use them powerfully by his grace and kindness. As we pray for you today, we will pray that God, who has made you in his image, will continue to transform you into the image of his Son, the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. We will pray that God will give you gifts and energy and love and wisdom for ministry. We will pray that God's blessings in Christ will fill you, so that you in turn bring his blessings to many people, throughout the years of your ministry in this role. So God will use the prayers we pray today, to bless countless people throughout your ministry in Tasmania, and beyond.

If you are used to praying, then today please pray fervently, please approach God with confidence through the Lord Jesus Christ, our great high priest, please pray with faith, trusting God to hear and answer every prayer prayed by every person in this building today. If you are not used to praying to God, then please use the words written in the service for your prayers, and trust that God is always more ready to hear our prayers than we are to pray, and that he covers the weakness of our prayers with the power of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. And our prayers today will reach their climax in the prayer during which our Primate lays his hands on Richard’s head, and prays the actual prayer of ordination. We are here to pray. And God will answer our prayers.

But Richard, at this point, you are here to listen, and what fun it is to be able to preach to you, when you are not allowed to interrupt, object, or walk out! It is a rare and thoroughly enjoyable treat, and one which I treasure very deeply. And perhaps others present will also benefit from what I am saying to you today.

I am going to preach to you from Paul’s second letter to Timothy.

14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness 7so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.

I want to remind you of three lessons from this section of Paul’s letter.

First: the message of the Bible in the Old Testament—as also, by the way, in the New Testament—has the power to instruct people for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

We are ignorant of God, and we need to know. We need to know, so we need God’s book, the Bible, to teach us. We need salvation, rescue from our own sins against God and against others, rescue from God’s judgement of our sins, and rescue from the power of our sins to damage us, and damage others. We only find this salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, sent by God to rescue us and bring us home to God.

Bishop Daniel Wilson , once bishop of Calcutta and Australia said,

‘Do not be afraid of distinguishing in your own mind …what is preaching the Gospel and what it not. There is one way to heaven, and but one. He that points out that way, preaches the Gospel; and he that does not, preaches not the Gospel, whatever else he may preach,’

Second: the Bible Old Testament and New Testament is inspired by God and so is powerful to train us for the tasks of ministry. So we read

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

As a matter of fact, the focus of this verse is not so much ‘everyone who belongs to God’, as it is the Christian leader, as, for example, you, Richard. How will you be equipped for every good work you have to do as Bishop of Tasmania? By the Bible.

And what are those works? Well we will hear a summary of them later in this service. They are: to maintain the Church’s witness to the resurrection of Christ from the dead; to protect the purity of the gospel; to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord; to guard the faith, unity and discipline of Christ’s church; to promote its mission in the world; to ensure that God’s word is faithfully proclaimed, and his sacraments duly ministered; to lead and guide the priests and deacons under your care; to be faithful in choosing and ordaining ministers; to watch over, guard, protect and serve God’s people; to teach and govern them, and be hospitable. You must know and be known by them, and a good example to all.

And we could add more: Be a tribal chief to Anglicans. Be a spokesperson in the media. Contribute to the welfare of the Tasmanian community. Do the work of an evangelist. Keep your head in all situations. Encourage others to use their gifts. Be an effective leader. Be a competent administrator. How will you be equipped for every good work you have to do as Bishop ofTasmania? By the Bible.

Your ministry will certainly be wide! It must also be deep, and continuing depth only comes from the Bible and from prayer. But then—

Third: you have to preach the word, using the powerful Bible as your tool of ministry, and with lots of teaching and lots of patience.

‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.’

Use the Bible, because of the power of the Bible to show people the way to God’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Use the Bible, because the power of the Bible makes it useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Yet, how will you use the Bible?

‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.’

This charge is given in the presence of God, and in the light of the judgement of God. In words of a French spiritual writer addressed to a bishop on the day of his ordination, and quoted by Daniel Wilson, ‘On the day of congratulation, remember the day of examination’. You are not here to please people, you are here to please God in all that you do. As Paul says elsewhere in 2 Timothy, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth’ [2:15].

Bible and the Bible alone as the instrument of ministry entrusted to you at the moment of your consecration or ordination as bishop. Not an empty ritual. Your special robes, your pastoral staff and a cross, they are reminders to you, and to us, of your weighty responsibilities. But the Bible is your instrument of ministry, the powerful means God has provided for you to preach the gospel and train people in God’s service. It is given to you: use it! A bishop without a Bible is no bishop at all, according to this service. It is not enough to use the Bible in the liturgy, if you don’t preach from it. It is not enough to have learnt the message of the Bible, and not continue to study and learn from it. It should be a book which is old, but always new; familiar but always strange;  known, but always giving us new and deeper revelations of God and his ways. It must be in every part of your life, and in every decision you make, and in every act of ministry, including preaching, teaching, training, counselling, warning, encouraging, comforting,  and telling people about the Lord Jesus Christ, and calling on them to turn to him in faith and obedience. The Bible must be in your liturgy, in your life, and on your lips. The Bible must be in your mind, in your memory, in your meditation, and in your ministry. A bishop without a Bible is no bishop at all.

Strong words? Actually, I have just been explaining some of the questions you will soon be asked in this service;

Q: ‘Are you convinced the holy Scriptures contain all doctrine necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? Will you instruct from them the people committed to your care, teaching nothing as essential to salvation which cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures?’

A: ‘I am convinced, and will do so, with God’s help.’

Q: ‘Will you then be faithful in prayer, and diligent in the study of the Scripture, so that you may be equipped to teach and encourage with sound doctrine?’

A: ‘I will, seeking to discern the mind of Christ by the Spirit of God.’

Q: ‘Will you proclaim the gospel to all, especially those among whom you live? Will you lead those in your care to obey our Saviour’s command to make disciples of all nations?’

A: ‘I will, gladly bearing witness to Christ in the power of God.’

I have just been explaining and filling out the words the Primate will say to you, as he gives you the Bible, as the instrument of your episcopal ministry:

‘Richard receive this Bible, study it well, and expound its teaching. In it are contained the words of eternal life. Take them for your rule, and declare them to the world.’

The Bible must be in your mind, in your memory, in your decisions, in your private life in your public life, on your lips, in your conversation, and in all of your ministry.

This service of the ordination of a Bishop has so much focus on the Bible as the source of all true knowledge of God, as the source of the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and as the chief instrument of Christian ministry because it is based on the Reformation Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who worked on providing services which were biblical in content and aim.

‘These books, therefore, ought to be much in our hands, in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, but most of all in our hearts. The words of Holy Scripture be called words of everlasting life (John 6): for they be God’s instrument, ordained for the same purpose’ .

‘For the Scripture of God is heavenly meat of our souls: the hearing and keeping of it maketh us blessed, sanctifieth us, and maketh us holy; it turneth our souls; it is a light lantern to our feet; it is a sure, stedfast, and everlasting instrument of salvation; it giveth wisdom to the humble and lowly hearts; it comforteth, maketh glad, cheereth, and cherisheth our conscience; it is a more excellent jewel, or treasure, than any gold or precious stone; it is more sweet than honey or honeycomb; it is called the best part, which Mary did choose; for it hath in it everlasting comfort.’

In the great Cranmer scholar Ashley Null’s powerful words, in Cranmer’s mind, the Scriptures ‘tell, turn, and tether’.  They tell us of God, they turn us to God, and they tether us to God.

‘And there is nothing that so much strengtheneth our faith and trust in God, that so much keepeth up innocency and pureness of the heart, and also of outward godly life and conversation, as continual reading and recording of God’s word. For that thing, which by continual use of reading of Holy Scripture, and diligent searching of the same, is deeply printed and graven in the heart, at length turneth almost into nature.’

Cranmer knew that we need ‘the pure word of God’ in our services and in our lives. Because of that, here are some questions I will ask you at regular intervals for the rest of your ministry: Do you still trust the Scriptures? Are you still studying the Scriptures, and learning at ever deeper levels as you study? How long is it since your reading of the Scriptures changed the way you live or do your ministry? Are you using the Scriptures in your preaching, not merely as a launching pad for the rocket of your own ideas, but as the substance, content and purpose of your preaching and for the substance of your application? Are you using the Scriptures in all other parts of your ministry: in counselling, evangelism, in pastoral conversations, and as the guide to your leadership and wider ministries? Are you giving God the microphone in your teaching and preaching, by projecting God’s eloquent words in the Bible?

For the great danger you face is that your increased quantity and level of responsibilities will lead to such a busy life, that the time you are able to commit to prayer and the ministry of the word will suffer. Like the apostles in Acts 6, you need to ensure that you have time for prayer and the ministry of the word, both in preparation and in presentation. Otherwise you will have a ministry which is ‘a thousand miles wide, but only an inch deep’. Only prayer and the Bible can deepen your ministry.

In the words of Daniel Wilson’s friend and supporter, the great English preacher Charles Simeon: ‘My endeavour is to bring out Scripture what is there, and not thrust into it what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding’.

I wonder if you know of the famous character in ancient Greek mythology, whose name was Procrustes. He was an innkeeper, and had a famous bed in his inn, which he boasted was a wonderful bed, which would be comfortable for anyone to sleep on. What actually happened to hapless travellers, attracted to the inn and the bed, was that Procrustes would ensure that they fitted the bed, either by cutting off their legs if the bed was too short, or by stretching their bodies on a rack, if the bed was too long.

We preach Procrustean sermons when we crowd out the ‘first text’, that is the Bible, by using a ‘second text’, which may be our own ideas, or popular psychology, or the latest ideas about leadership, or the most recent book we read. I am sorry to say that it is very easy to preach Procrustean sermons, in which the Bible is either cut short to fit what the sermon is about, or stretched beyond its natural meaning, to fit the mind of the preacher. The most common way in which is done today, is to say, ‘Well, this Bible passage reminds me of something Hildegard of Bingen said, or ‘This reminds me of a comment of Tim Keller’.  The Bible is then left behind, having been used as a mere launching pad for the preacher’s own agenda. When the Bible is preached as it is, God’s voice is heard in the Bible reading and the sermon. For, as Christ said, quoting the Old Testament,

‘It is written, “We do not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”’ [Matthew 4:4].
Well Richard, All obvious? yes. All elementary? yes. All clearly taught in the Bible? yes. All clearly expressed in this service? yes. But, as a friend of mine often says, ’It goes without saying, so it needs to be said.’

Let the Bible, not your diary, rule your life.What we hear shapes our lives, so we are indeed blessed if our ‘delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law [we] meditate day and night’ . For individually and corporately, ‘we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ .

Well Richard, I pray that wonderful miracles of our Old Testament reading, Ezra chapter 8 happen again and again in Tasmania during and through your ministry. Here are the miracles: God’s people wanted to hear God’s words. Ezra was well trained to teach them God’s words, for as we read elsewhere, he had devoted himself to study, do and teach the word of God. When Ezra opened the Bible, everyone stood up, because they knew they were in the presence of God, as God spoke to them from the Bible. Ezra’s assistants helped the people to understand the Bible. The people rejoiced because they had understood God’s words. And they responded with tears and joy.

The venerable Bede, an early English Bible commentator, applied the ministry of Ezra to the Bishop of Rome. I want to apply it to the Bishop of Tasmania!

First: ‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ The message of the Bible in the Old Testament—as also, by the way, in the New Testament—has the power to instruct people for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Second: ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.’ The Bible—Old Testament and New Testament—is inspired by God and also powerful to train us for the tasks of ministry.

Third: ‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.’ Then you have to preach the word, using the powerful Bible as your tool of ministry, and with lots of teaching and lots of patience.

Richard, may you be able to say with St Paul, as you end your ministry,

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’

Richard, may God be in your head, and in your understanding; may God be in your eyes, and in your looking; may God be in your mouth, and in your speaking; may God be at your end, and at your departing. May God in his mercy sustain you in these priorities until your life’s end, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Mmmmm, prayer

A psychologist friend of mine once told me, mid-conversation, that the ‘mmmmm-ing’ I was emitting and the ‘mmmmm-ing’ she was reciprocating with actually had official psycho-babble (my term, not hers) names: they were minimal encouragers.

Minimal encouragers, I thought, that makes sense. You know how it goes: a parishioner needs a pastoral chat, a co-raconteur is regaling you with a tall tale, a colleague is offering up their latest evangelistic idea, and you find yourself ‘mmmmm-ing’. Perhaps without knowing it, you’re urging them on to tell you more, anticipating the next nugget of news, humouring them so that silence won’t discourage them, agreeing with the overall sentiment of what’s being said (or, at the very least, agreeing that they agree with the overall sentiment of what’s being said).

And it’s not just the one-to-one, in-the-flesh conversations in which the minimal encourager makes its presence felt. Think of the multitudinous phone calls you make to various agencies and companies that require a transaction of information. If we haven’t given, we’ve certainly gotten.

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