Preacher: Dwight Nash is the pastor of Sent Church—a congregation seeking to be ambassadors of God’s love.
Sermon Link: https://vimeo.com/144306337
Sometimes we feature sermons because they demonstrate values we can exhibit in our own preaching. Through this sermon, Pastor Dwight demonstrates several principles for great preaching. Each of these values are overarching values for good preaching that we long to see embodied in preachers throughout the larger Wesleyan movement.
Here are a few we noticed:
- Redefine Something Common: “Who are these twelve people Moses chose to go into the camp? It’s not too much of a stretch to say they were spiritual men. But somewhere along the way, it went wrong. I don’t think the ten ever intended to lead Israel into disobedience.”
With one simple statement, Nash humanizes the other ten spies in the Joshua narrative. If Nash is correct, these spies weren’t villains; they were like us: well-intentioned (even effective) leaders whose close-to-the-vest approach led to forty years of wandering. By reframing these characters, Nash provides fresh insight for new Christians and seasoned saints alike. In re-imagining the text, Dwight provokes the congregation to lean into uncertainty—helping them recognize where their hermeneutical process needs rupturing and rebuilding. By redefining the narrative, Nash reminds his congregation to have an interpretive curiosity. Great preaching invites us to a closer examination of Good News.
- Use Emotional and Intellectual Appeal: “There came a time when people gave up on claiming the land. The land was promised to them, but they were just tired—and they didn’t take it up. They became satisfied and settled down.”
Nash appeals to the intellect during this sermon—reminding the audience of adversity and loneliness in leadership—but he also appeals to the heart. Dwight makes a point about the importance of self-leadership (intellectual point), then compassionately discusses Israelite fatigue in the desert (emotional point). This double-barreled appeal provides a “hook” for the whole person, rather than just the heart or just the head. Great preaching engages the head, heart, soul, and will.
- Employ Kinetic and Static Energy:
Kinetic energy is the energy of motion; static energy is the energy of being still. Subtle shifts build listeners’ interests. Nash’s inflection, speed, and intensity shift subtly during segments of the message, creating gravitas by quickening pace during intense parts of the story and slowing speech/lowering tone during application points. As a result, Nash leaves the congregation anticipant during each part of the sermon. Kinetic and static energy are important for physical movement, too. Purposeful whole-body movement (kinetic) underscores movements of the narrative, but Dwight keeps his feet rooted (static) during much of the sermon. Dwight uses the stage to “outline” his sermon, and remains still to stabilize his message. Content and delivery harmonize; the sermon sings as a result. Great preaching harmonizes stillness and movement.
- Make the Dog Swallow Its Tail:
“Happy Birthday, Church!… As Good as it’s been, God has something better—and we’re pursuing it.”
Sermon introductions are often used as hit-and-run attention-grabbers. But what if our introductions could launch the sermon and provide resolution? Nash demonstrates that possibility. His introduction celebrates the church’s thirtieth birthday, and later uses the occasion to propel the church’s missional calling. In encouraging the church to achieve their corporate mandate, he also invites their inhabitance of the spirit of the calling. “Don’t lose your love as you lead,” says Nash. By tying leadership principles with Sent Church’s birthday, Nash weaves the introductory celebration into the fabric of the sermon’s content.
- Read with Fresh Eyes: As you prepare your sermon this week, write down your presuppositions about the text. What do you think it’s saying? How have you heard this text preached in the past? After you’ve written down your presuppositions, try to escape your previous interpretations; find something fresh within the text. By doing so, you’ll provide your congregation with new perspective and build your own passion for engaging the text. The two most important questions I have asked in preaching preparation for the last twenty years (Dave) are these: What new thing does God want to show me in this text I have never seen before? How is this passage leading me to change my life this week?
- Gauge Your Appeal: Listen to your last 2 sermons. Did they primarily appeal to the intellect or emotions? After analyzing the sermon, write four actionable goals (and deadlines) to help you maximize your strengths and cover your weaknesses to engage the heart and mind of your congregation.
- Move It, Move It! (Or Don’t): Get a video of your preaching; watch it. As you watch, see how your movement corresponds with the sermon’s flow. As you do, note how you could make your body movement more rooted (move only the upper body), and purposeful (physically representing your words). This will become even more important as you learn to preach for video—whether for online distribution or campus-site planting. If you move your feet a lot, you’re going to drive every camera operator crazy.
By Dave Ward and Ethan Linder