Sermon Title: People of the Cross
Preacher: Todd Crofford–Todd Crofford is the Lead Pastor of Real Life Wesleyan Church in Mechanicsville, MD. Real Life, planted in 2008, recently expanded to another campus—Real Life South, and is rapidly growing.
At Wesleyan Sermons we believe in creating a hub of preaching resources for Wesleyan pastors that includes articles by homileticians, books and resources for preachers in the Wesleyan tradition, practical insights from working preachers for working preachers, and sermons we can learn from. This week we’re sharing one of the latter. One of the things we love about this sermon is it gives us a chance to read a sermon through the lens of a particular homiletical theory: The Homiletical Plot by Eugene Lowry. For a summary of those thoughts click here. Gene’s work talks about several key things for preaching: the itch and the scratch, upsetting the apple cart of expectations, and maintaining attention by keeping the tension of the plot moving in one continual flow of the sermon. Here’s how we think Todd Crofford accomplished those things:
- Todd Scratches a Cultural Itch. Todd began the sermon with a video chronicling the martyrdom of Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS. Culturally cognizant congregants are already familiar with this news. Many would likely come into Church with this burden on their shoulders; the martyrs’ sacrifice has subtly weighed on them during the week. Todd’s intro addresses those burdens while apprising the rest of the congregation of the news they’ve missed. The video itself personalizes these events by quoting an Egyptian Wesleyan Pastor familiar with the Egyptian martyrs, and listing each of the martyrs’ names.
- Todd Upsets the Equilibrium. Crofford’s appearance is a tangible reminder of upset: he preaches in an orange jumpsuit—the attire of the martyrs during their death. Crofford disquiets the congregation’s expectations for the sermonic trajectory: “This sermon isn’t about terrorism; I haven’t come here to talk about ISIS—this sermon certainly is not about Islam. Today I want to speak to you about what it means to be people of the Cross.” Todd reminds us that while we are thousands of miles away from the site of martyrdom, our identity is rooted in the same Christ. Crofford reminds us that our denominationalism and patriotism are often held in tension with our Christian identity. He calls out our tendency to quickly glance over tragedies and resume our “normal lives.” Todd’s upset of the equilibrium continues after the sermon’s end. His tone, presentation, and words communicate that we need to find a “new normal” that lives up to our Christian identity. You cannot shake this sermon of with a simple handshake followed by “Good sermon, Pastor.”
- Todd Holds Attention. Dr. Crofford never rambled. Nearly every sentence in the sermon was necessary to further the point. He told stories, employed humor, and used carefully-crafted phrases to “stick” in the minds of the listeners. We counted over fifteen “sticky statements,” each of which contributed to his point. Fortunately, Crofford is gifted with both stories and humor, both of which naturally re-engage listeners. The themes introduced at the beginning of the sermon are woven throughout the sermonic fabric. This plot-style beckons the listeners’ attention: how will the story be resolved? What turns will the narrative take?
- Todd Presents the Gospel as “Good News” “Our ministry is one of appeal, not accusation.” Pastor Todd embodied this in his words, presence, and delivery. Although his preaching calls hearers out of complacency, his delivery is a tangible application of loving appeal. As a preacher, Todd models the very message he is delivering—even in his tone, style, and verbiage. As Lowry reminds us, the experience of the good news is part of what makes preaching more than motivational speaking.
- Transfer of Responsibility. “If God were here speaking audibly, God would not say ‘Go to hell,’ He would rather make an appeal to them that would say, ‘Come unto me!’ He would make an appeal. But God does not speak audibly—you and I do.” In this statement, Pastor Todd upsets the equilibrium and reminds the congregation of their role as Christ’s ambassadors. At another point in the sermon, Pastor Todd reminds the congregation that they are the ministers at Real Life. Far from arrogantly hoarding ministry, Crofford reminds the congregation that the onus is on US—the collective body of Christ. His application (having them write down who they will pray for and reach out to) reveals this core value, and provides concrete transfer of responsibility.
There are plenty more golden nuggets of preaching principles found in this sermon. See what you can find and incorporate in your own preaching!
Followup Exercise: Write down ways that you can transpose the five preaching principles that Todd embodied into your preaching. What areas are you strong in? What areas are you weak in? Think about these and write them down. In preparing for your next sermon, pick one of the strong areas and focus on making it sing. In another sermon, pick one weak area and notch it up one level.
~ By Dave Ward and Ethan Linder