The fine art of preaching has long intrigued me. In the same way talented painters or sculpters have their very unique styles, good preaching can come in a variety of forms.
Since moving to Macon, Ga., nearly eight years ago, I have benefited from the superb preaching of my pastor, Jim Dant, at Highland Hills Baptist Church — except for the times I have played hooky or he has scheduled a musical or mission trip report to get out of the pulpit.
A couple of Sundays ago, I picked up on something in one of his well-crafted, well-connecting sermons that had not really crossed my mind before. (Bells and sirens should be going off here. A pew sitter remembers a sermon and text more than a week later.)
Jim was preaching on the parable of the lost sheep recorded in Matthew 18 and Luke 15, that goes on to tell of the lost coin and lost son as well. The familiar parable that Jesus told, of course, speaks of a shepherd who searches relentlessly for the single lost sheep despite the fact that 99 sheep are safe and secure.
We would be satisfied with retaining 99 out of 100 sheep, Jim noted, but God would not.
About the time the service moved toward the benediction and I started contemplating the menu options at nearby El Sombrero, it hit me: This is what preaching is really about.
In the simplest terms, it is an effort to shed light on the contrast between our narrow viewpoints and the wider perspectives of God.
Rightly so then, good preaching will often contain sentences that begin with “We…,” and are followed by “but God…”
Added to that are inspiration and instruction for more closely aligning our limited perspectives with those of an infinite and infinitely loving God. For we settle for less in what we see, say, think and do.
And congratulations to my pastor (above) on ten years of preaching and pastoral leadership in a congregation that carries the extra burden of having more than 20 seminary graduates among its members. Yet, we too need weekly reminders that “We…, but God…”