BIO: Al Goracke has been serving as the Senior Pastor of the Kingswood Church for 10 years. This mid-sized church exists in a suburban context and consists of a diversity of generations, cultures, and levels of spiritual maturity. “Work ahead to create margin to allow for creativity,” says Pastor Al.
Lenny: Your sermon introduction was wild. I wish I was there to see it. Tell us what we couldn’t see and what you were trying to accomplish in the introduction.
Al: You can see it….it is on YouTube. Here are the links: part 1 and part 2. The point of the humor at the beginning was to get people to think about what was in their heart. Was it empty? Was it filled with something? I used humor to drop peoples’ guards so that they would be ready to hear the message of the empty tomb.
Lenny: Your tone in delivery is very conversational, down to earth, and honest. Tell us about some of the homiletic convictions that guide your delivery style.
Al: What does “homiletic convictions” mean? Just kidding. Billy Graham always tells preachers to keep “the cookie on the lowest shelf” so that everyone can “get the cookie” or understand what you are saying. One third of our worship attendees are non-believers. For this reason, I have never forgotten where I’ve come from and use this down to earth conversational tone to reach these people.
Lenny: Many preachers usually have one declarative sentence that defines what the sermon will say. Some preachers call this the sermon focus, others call it the main point, but many have this governing sentence around which the entire sermon is built. Did you have a focus or a main point that governed and guided what you included in the sermon? If so, what was it?
Al: In 2009 –when this message was preached-our country was in the middle of the “Great Recession.” People were beaten down, afraid, and feeling empty. I crafted the message to speak to the emptiness that the culture was experiencing. The main focus was that God can be the solution to our emptiness. I brought the congregation to the empty tomb and affirmed everyone right where they were at, emotionally and spiritually, and then shifted the focus to the hope that Christ offers.
Lenny: Your sermon was around 45 minutes in length. Some might say that on Easter Sunday, when lots of unchurched people may venture into church, a sermon of that length is too long. How would you respond to that?
Al: The entire service lasted 65 minutes. We have discovered anything longer than that and you lose the congregation. The message was longer but we use multimedia to break it up.
Lenny: You used humor in the introduction with the stethoscope and in the middle of the sermon with the top ten pet peeves of the Easter bunny. Why do you feel the need to use humor and how do you ensure that humor isn’t just fluff but reinforces the point your sermon intends to make?
Al: There is a book called “The Humor of Jesus.” This book highlights just how much Jesus used humor to drive home a very serious point. That is our intent. A lot of people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching and it was hard and truthful teaching, but Jesus used humor to help people drop their guard and embrace the seriousness of their condition.
Lenny: Along with humor, you used lots of media (video and audio). How can media help a sermon and what convictions guide your use of media?
Al: We are a visual culture-especially men. 60% of our congregation is men and 40% is women. In most churches that statistic is reversed. Using media helps to get and hold the attention of the attendees. We do edit out things that may be an obstacle for people and yet I will be honest, the most criticism that I get regarding media is from other pastors or very “churched” people. Our church is attempting to reach people who do not know Jesus…and the media we use to do this is never an issue for these people. We use texting to track first time commitments for Christ. I think three or four people responded by text that they received Christ from that message and they received a follow up note, bible, and information on developing their relationship with Christ.