At the 11th annual Leadership Institute, held last week at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, host pastor Adam Hamilton urged pastors and lay preachers to focus on improving the quality of their preaching. “We are in desperate need today of excellent preaching,” he said during the conference’s Oct. 9 morning session.
Hamilton, who founded the now-megachurch 19 years ago with only a handful of people, noted that the Methodist movement began and prospered as “a movement of preachers.”
“[People] went to the Anglican church for the sacraments on Sunday. But if [they] wanted preaching, [they] went to the Methodist ‘preaching house,'” he said. “And we had lay people and clergy — mostly lay people — who were trained to preach the gospel.”
Hamilton buttressed his point about Methodist preaching by quoting 19th-century Presbyterian revivalist, Charles Finney. Finney decried much of the preaching of his time, but had great admiration for preaching by Methodists.
It is evident that we must have more exciting preaching, to meet the character and wants of the age…. The character of the age is changed, and [most preachers] have not conformed to it, but retain the same stiff, dry, prosing style of preaching that answered half a century ago.
[But l]ook at the Methodists. Many of their ministers are unlearned, in the common sense of the term, many of them taken right from the shop or the farm, and yet they have gathered congregations, and pushed their way, and won souls everywhere. Wherever the Methodists have gone, their plain, pointed and simple, but warm and animated mode of preaching has always gathered congregations….
We must have exciting, powerful preaching, or the devil will have the people, except what the Methodists can save.
(From Finney’s 1835 Lectures on Revival of Religion,
Lecture XIV, “Methods to Promote Revivals.”)
In the past, Methodist preachers were known for “connect[ing] the gospel with daily life,” Hamilton noted. Their preaching was filled with passion, but not at the expense of intellect. “It was well-informed preaching but preaching that stirred the heart.”
That same approach can work today — and it connects especially well with young adults, Hamilton said.
He mentioned an informal Facebook-based survey in which respondents ages 16-to-35 listed “preaching” as the number one reason they attend Church of the Resurrection.
“Preaching is something that can touch them and connect with them — if the preaching is thoughtful, if it’s helpful, if it’s inspiring.”
Adam Hamilton reminded his audience that the ability to excel in preaching isn’t something people are born with, but “we can learn,” he said. Hamilton called on pastors and lay preachers to work on improving their preaching by devoting sufficient time to learning, study, reflection, and prayer.
“The enemy of great preaching is busyness — when we don’t have enough time to devote to preparing a meal that’s satisfying to people,” he said. “And sometimes [the problem is that we’re not] clear what that meal might look like.”
Hamilton then laid out five goals for every sermon. “If you do these five things, the chances of somebody wanting to some back next week, the chances of somebody wanting to invite a friend, go up exponentially.”
He said an effective sermon will:
Adam Hamilton again reminded his hearers that an effective sermon must be “passionate.” He quoted a ministry colleague who said, “People come to see our convictions. They come to see what we really, really believe.”
Use the audio players below to listen to excerpts from Adam Hamilton’s teaching on preaching and worship at the 2009 Leadership Institute.
Excerpt 1: ‘We are in desperate need of excellent preaching’ (5 min.)
Excerpt 2: ‘Five goals for every sermon’ (12 min.)
The annual Church of the Resurrection (COR) Leadership Institute, launched in 1999, is designed to teach “practical, translatable principles” that have helped COR grow from four people in 1990 to 16,000 today.
DVDs of this year’s general sessions are available through The Well, the Church of the Resurrection bookstore.