If art is the imitation of life, then the art of preaching is about the imagination of new life. At least that’s the message Meghan Good preaches. According to her, “Preaching is for transformation, not conveying information. We need to preach to that goal. Turning minds is different from turning hearts and lives.”
Good, a scholar and author, shared her insights and practical tools in her graduate-level course, 21st Century Preaching, held in Saskatoon over four days in November.
The course covered all facets of homiletics: biblical exegesis, sermon construction, congregational engagement and preaching in a post-Christian culture, as well as preaching styles and techniques. Each student was given the opportunity to preach one of their own sermons to the class and to workshop the sermon together in an effort “to make the sermon sing.”
While sermons may be a tale as old as time in the Mennonite tradition, they have not been immune to the pressures and needs of a changing culture. This is something that pastors and churches need to be attuned to, Good told her class. “As people’s engagement in social media has increased, so has their expectation that they’ll be able to participate in church and add their voices to the conversation,” she said. “Good preachers attend to that expectation. And in a post-Christian world, where people recognize authority has changed, authority is found less in the role [of preacher] and more in the authenticity and integrity of the preacher.”
Even though a preacher’s sermons need to adapt and change with the particularity of culture, the function of preaching in today’s world remains essential to the mission of the church.
“Every advertisement we see in the world is mini-sermon,” she said. “Regardless of whether or not people realize it, they’re being preached to about what is good, desirable and what they should want. That’s what good sermons do—give people alternative narratives and worldviews. The question is: ‘Is there an alternative worldview that is worth the work of counter formation?’ . . . There’s no one method to do this. Preaching is the proclamation of the alternative. It’s a vision of an alternative world, a vision that tells people who God is and what they can be in that alternative reality.”
Ryan Siemens, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s executive minister, said he felt compelled to bring Good to teach a course on preaching after hearing her speak at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in 2017. “Because we have pastors being trained in ministry in our Saskatchewan churches, offering homiletics made sense,” he said. “We thought Meghan would connect well with our pastoral community.”
Eleven students enrolled in the course, which is part of a larger partnership between MC Saskatchewan and CMU.
“We’re creating this partnership as we go,” Siemens said. “This is the third course that we’ve offered, to bring the seminary to our pastors. In this course, we had two students from CMU who are not from Saskatchewan join us.”
Good’s call to preach this alternative resonated with students.
“To communicate the gospel clearly is still one of the most important roles of the church,” said Garth Ewart Fisher, co-pastor of Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon. “Meghan’s own clarity and modelling shows that.”
For others in the course, the tools and skills provided were a confirmation of what is required in their own ministry going forward.
Andrea Enns Gooding, pastor of Rosthern Mennonite Church, said: “This course reaffirmed for me other parts of my life and training within my calling. It was very affirmative of what I already know but haven’t trusted before.”
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