Mike Skor pastors New Hope Wesleyan Church in North Dakota. This sermon is a sermon meant to set up a service framed by the sacraments of communion and baptism. There are several things we loved about this sermon when we heard it. I want to highlight those things for you briefly then ask you a couple questions that we can discuss as a community of preachers. Here’s what he did so well:
1. Mike planned a sermon series about celebration. Think of some of the sermon series you have heard recently. I imagine many of them deal with problems: financial struggles, marital problems, the seven deadly sins, or addictions. All of these topics need addressed, and a sermon series is a great way to do that. However, all problem solving and no solution celebrating makes us a dull church. One of the marks of Wesleyan preaching is the joy that comes through the good news we have been given. Wesleyans have even better news than others – we can not only be free of guilt, but free from enslavement to sin. It’s worth celebrating.
2. Mike focused this sermon on the sacrament of baptism. Mike explores this key moment of celebration for Christian community in a way that reaches each person in the room regardless of spiritual maturity. Part of the challenge of pastoring is explaining the basics of the faith to the outsider and new Christian, while deepening the understanding of the faith for the mature believer. Mike does that well in this sermon.
3. Mike answers common question people ask. I often feel when I listen to preachers that they are answering questions no one is asking. Mike answers questions people actually do ask. He hits the questions regarding baptism and salvation, obedience out of obligation vs. obedience out of love, and what the symbol of water actually means for baptism. He also gets them to ask questions they may not have asked such as “If I love him, why wouldn’t I want the whole world to know I am his?”
4. He mentions aqua-man.
5. Mike gains insights from multiple directions. Scripture is primary, but historical/cultural background, church history, reason, experience, and original language study inform his sermon. Yet at the same time, none of these sources were allowed to take over the message turning it into a geeks-only moment.
6. He does all of this in 23 minutes. A good sermon does not have to be forty minutes to cover a topic clearly and inspirationally. Often, the longer sermons go the less effective they become. It takes more preparation and practice to get a sermon into a tight 25-30 minute window. Yet that preparation and practice usually makes the sermon less verbose, more clear, and cuts out the extras that send the listener down rabbit trails of distraction anyway.
Kudos, Mike, for a great sermon on the sacrament of Baptism.
Now it’s your turn Wesleyan Preachers: How do you balance celebration and conviction in preaching so that people leave neither deflated, nor over-inflated when they walk out of church?