Category: Preaching (Page 1 of 21)

A Preaching Event

I am so grateful to my brothers and sisters at St. John Baptist Church for the way they love me and honor me and make Carrie-Anne and me feel right at home and an important part of their fellowship. Anthony Harris, the powerful pastor at this faithful church, invited me to preach in their pulpit yesterday and it was an absolute thrill! Anthony and I have become great friends and partners in the Gospel together over the past year or so. He is a tremendous encourager and a bearer of God’s image to me. And I was so humbled and, frankly, excited, to preach in their church. I’ve never preached in an African-American church before – it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You can watch the whole church service on St. John’s Facebook page (the service begins at the 10:30 mark, the sermon starts at the 37:25 mark). But it won’t do justice to the energy and the love and the unity we all experienced together yesterday.

Delivering a sermon in a Black church really is a “preaching event.” And, I must admit, it took me a few minutes to adjust. There’s a timing and a groove, it’s a back and forth, there’s a call and response – the sermon truly is a congregational event. Everybody participates!

First, Anthony arranged for Stephanie Michaels to sing “Because He Lives” right before the sermon (at the 31:05 mark). Goodness gracious! The mighty force of her voice, the conviction in her heart, the compelling connection she makes with every person in the room – whoa! Anthony calls himself my friend, but he cursed me by making me follow her. As I made my way to the pulpit and waited for the piano to finish playing…

…the piano didn’t stop playing. I waited. And waited. I smiled. And then I realized Isaac was not going to stop playing the piano until I started speaking. He’ll fade out once I start speaking over him. And that’s the way it was for the next 30-minutes. I needed to stop after every other sentence as the church responded to what I was saying. I had to learn on the fly how to acknowledge the church as they clapped and shouted “Hallelujah!” while I was in the middle of a thought. I quickly discovered there is no such thing as a rhetorical question during a sermon in a Black church – the church answers out loud! I also realized that if I don’t get a handle on this, it’s going to be a 90-minute sermon!

My brothers and sisters at St. John Baptist come to church expecting to hear a word from the Lord. They’re geared up for it, anticipating it. God is going to speak through this servant in front of us and we want to listen to him and be moved. It’s not just a head thing at St John Baptist, the Sunday sermon is a heart thing, too. The sermon contains facts and truth, but it’s just as full of emotion and feeling. The congregation was preaching the sermon with me, finishing my sentences when I quoted Scripture, answering my questions when I dared to ask them, speculating out loud during open-ended paragraphs, discovering with me the points I was trying to make – I waited on them a couple of times and they slowed down when they got ahead of me a couple of times – exalting in them and praising God the whole time. And it was an absolute blast!

It was thrilling! Completely thrilling! And exhausting. I loved every minute of it, but I’m not sure I could do that Sunday after Sunday, week in and week out.

I am so grateful to my godly, big-picture, Kingdom-view elders here at Central for allowing me – no, encouraging me! – to preach in other churches like this. My shepherds know that anytime our churches can put aside our denominational differences, our racial differences, our puny little insignificant differences, and come together in the presence of God, in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to do anything, it’s a big deal. It is so important that people see this and know that it’s happening and experience it for themselves. If we believe Ephesians 2, that Christ died on the cross to destroy the barriers that separate us from God and us from each other, we’d better be all about it. What happened at St. John Baptist yesterday matters. It was a Kingdom of God moment. And I want to be in on more of those kinds of moments.

Thank you to Anthony and Tonya and Isaac and Stephanie and Jasmine and Ed and Trina and all the glorious saints at that important church on 14th Street. I thank God for your faithful witness in our community and for your sacrificial service in the Kingdom of our Lord. I spent all day yesterday relishing the sweet fellowship and Christian unity we experienced together. And I’ll spend a lifetime in gratitude to God.

Peace,

Allan

Especially in Texas

To all the preachers, all my brothers and sisters in Christ who proclaim the Gospel every Sunday and shepherd churches large and small, especially in Texas:

Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.
Do not grow weary in doing good.

God bless you. God bless us.

Allan

So What?

One-hundred-eighty of us from the four downtown Amarillo churches and beyond spent most of yesterday together at Polk Street United Methodist for the first ever 4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody. Each of us four churches brought in the best preacher from our own traditions to preach his/her favorite Easter sermon and then to give us 15-20 minutes of whatever they had burning in their bones to tell a room full of preachers from Canadian and Borger to Plainview and Tulia.

The theme of our two-day worship and preaching seminar was “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it was fabulous.

Ron Scates took us on an imaginary bus tour across the state of Texas and helped us see our communities as if Jesus had never been raised. Alyce McKenzie described the shock and awe of the resurrection to those first followers who should have seen it coming, but didn’t. Chris Seidman, our CofC guy from The Branch in North Dallas, inspired us by pointing out the significance of the seal on the tomb of Jesus and the breaking of that seal to boldly proclaim that the situation does not belong to Pilate or the soldiers or to even Caesar himself, but to Almighty God who breaks the seal and does exactly what he wants to save the world. And then Joel Gregory reminded us that Jesus appears to the downsized characters on the road to Emmaus, he meets them and us right where we are, in the middle of our doubts and fears and shattered hopes.

The ecumenical spirit was turned up to eleven at First Baptist Sunday night. And the unity and fellowship was even stronger Monday because it included so many from at least a dozen other congregations of God’s people throughout the panhandle.

On top of all that, the optional offerings added up to $1,500 we’re donating to Amarillo’s Heal the City free clinic in the name of the Christian unity our Lord prayed for on that last night.

I am so grateful to Chris for joining us up here for this incredible event. I am thankful to God for the friendship and partnership I share with Howard, Howie, and Mark and our four churches in this city. And I pray that when we worship and serve together, it remains an undeniable witness that our Lord really is the Prince of Peace, and he is bigger than anything that might possibly divide us!

Peace,

Allan

Something New March 1-2

The four downtown Amarillo churches are bringing together four remarkable preachers for the first “4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody” March 1-2. We’re calling the conference “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it’s open to all preachers, all church leaders, all church members, and anyone eager to reawaken within themselves and their congregations the deep urgency and immense joy in the Resurrection of Jesus.

This is a free two-day event for everyone. Four of the best communicators in our fellowships are joining us for worship, to preach their favorite Easter sermons, and to share their own insights and experiences in proclaiming the Good News.

On Sunday morning March 1, each of the four preachers will preach at his or her host congregation in downtown Amarillo. Chris Seidman, the lead minister at The Branch Church in Dallas, will be preaching with us at Central. The world-famous Joel Gregory will be at First Baptist, Alyce McKenzie will preach at Polk Street United Methodist, and Ron Scates will be at First Presbyterian.

Then Sunday evening all four of our churches will gather at First Baptist for an hour of ecumenical worship with our combined choirs and all four speakers in a panel discussion answering the “So what?” of Easter. What does the truth of Easter mean to a broken world? Why should our city, this country, the world give a flip about the resurrection of Jesus? How does the resurrection make a hill of beans of difference to anybody? Everyone’s invited for the inspiring music, the ecumenical fellowship, and the important conversation.

Then, Monday, for the main event at Polk Street, each of our four preachers will have one hour to preach their all-time best or favorite Easter sermon and then to say anything they want to say about preaching: exegesis, hermeneutics, study, presentation, prayer, formatting a sermon, helpful hints, how not to preach, why preaching is important, personal stories, encouragement, whatever. It’ll start at 8:30 Monday morning, March 2, and we’ll have everybody out of there by 2:00pm. Breakfast and lunch are provided for everyone who attends.

Please click here to check the schedule, to see the speakers and sermon topics, links to the four churches, and to register. It’s free, but we’d like to get a ballpark number on a head-count so we know how much food to prepare. If you know someone who would like to attend, please forward this blog post or the link to him or her and help us spread the word.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

May our God be praised by the bold and unceasing proclamation of the Good News. And may our Christian unity point the world to our powerful and loving Savior Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Allan

Another Initiative Quote

Quote of the day from a wonderful hermeneutics session at the Initiative in Dallas:

“Nobody goes to church to learn what happened with the Jebusites.” ~Anna Carter Florence (quoting Harry Emerson Fosdick, I think)

Initiative Quote

Quote of the day from the Initiative, an annual gathering of preachers in Dallas:

“Competence is important, but not as important as character and integrity and relationships.” ~Jim Martin

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