Pastor Kyle Ray is the lead pastor of Kentwood Community Church, a church of about 2,800 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Though there are lots of reasons to highlight sermon videos. You may have noticed we try to share some of the things that draw each sermon to our attention. Hopefully this helps Wesleyan Preachers listen to sermons not just for their content, but for their creativity in sermonic craft. Every preacher has to find their own way in preaching to a degree, and yet no preacher is a completely unique creation. Instead we cobble together our own unique preaching identity by learning from others.
In this message, Pastor Kyle Ray weaves in fundamental Christian doctrine by the use of analogy and a popular cultural touch point (a movie/book). He draws upon an analogy that he first picked up in the Alpha Course as a church volunteer and combines it with doctrine that he learned as a student at Asbury Theological Seminary. The analogy has been used so many times at KCC that Kyle doesn’t mention the origin of the analogy.
This week we’ll highlight some ideas you might try for your own preaching that this sermon by Kyle Ray illustrates well.
- Memorize the introduction. For the first several minutes he talks in an engaging, memorable, and fun way; much like he is talking with a friend, not reading a manuscript. It is very conversational, relatable, and engaging style. He is very confident in what he is saying, without any stuttering, “um’s” and “uh’s” present. A fluid introduction that is engaging and in the moment can set up a congregation well, put them in a positive attitude toward the preacher, and actually get them physically leaning in. A fumbled introduction is hard to recover. You can spend half the sermon juggling the ball down the field. Memorize the start, memorize the finish, and nail them both.
- Use popular culture as the hook (not the point). In this series, Catching Fire, Kyle connects the title with the books/movies of the same name so that whenever someone hears that name, they will remember the message that was brought during this series. This relation to culture makes everything in culture point back to the Word of God. Even the simple connection between the furnace and the Holy Spirit are great ways to help your congregation remember God in the everyday. We have to take care not to make everything in scripture point back to culture, though. The danger is in setting up a self-confirming cycle between culture and church. Then church is merely a reflection of its surroundings rather than a prophetic voice.
- Help us read minds. Pastor Kyle spends plenty of time explaining what is going on in the culture and in the minds’ of the disciples so that we are better able to understand what they are thinking and feeling. The best novels, plays, and movies all help you enter into the world of a character and think as though you were within their skin. That character identification is part of the key function of any story in moving us toward better lives. Being able to put your congregation into the context of the text makes it more understandable, relatable, and applicable. It also helps move the congregation in ways logical explanation can never do.
- In illustrating God, move from lesser to greater (there is no other true direction). The story of waiting on his mom for more gum, something so small, yet big enough to stick with him throughout the years, is nothing compared to what the disciples were expecting. Everybody was able to realize that there is no comparison between the importance of the gum and the Holy Spirit without Kyle even having to state it. This simple illustration no doubt made most of the congregation think of something so little that they wait for, and get disappointed when they do not receive it, and how minuscule that is compared to the promises of God that we do not wait with anticipation for. Often, we forget that all illustrations and metaphors fall short of glory of God. And we fumble saying things like “in the same way, God..” as opposed to “how much infinitely more then is God…”
- Draw me a diagram. While most people can learn through audible communication only, many struggle to keep their eyes on a talking head. Not only does this help keep focus and attention, but a diagram imprints on the memory a clear and easily grasped understanding. So the diagram does three things: gathers the eye, clears the mind, and stamps the memory.
- Let the scriptures be silent. Kyle does not insert into scripture what is not there as though it was. He says “We don’t know what they did here…” several times, and then he will often follow that by saying “But we do know…” It is ok for us to not know or understand one hundred percent of what goes on in the text. It is better to be honest and authentic, than to be fake and misleading. If you play with an imaginative idea for what could have been, make that clear. But when the text does say something, don’t avoid it.