Sermon: The God of Our Losses
Preacher: Ron Gormong has been the senior pastor of Spooner Wesleyan Church for over 25 years. Located in Spooner, Wisconsin, SWC is a thriving congregation known for their generosity and missional focus.
We feature sermons because they teach us to preach. Through careful listening, we learn both practices and perspectives. In this sermon, Gormong gives us a few of each. As you listen try to pay attention to both. Look for the things Ron does over and over that work, and listen for the perspectives he gives that open new avenues for your preaching.
In This Sermon, Ron Tells Us That:
- This Sermon’s For Now: “It’s amazing how quickly life can change. One moment all is fine–the next, the phone vibrates, the doorbell rings–and nothing is ever the same again.” Not every sermon needs immediate application; but when the church experiences loss, they need daily bread today. From introduction to application, Gormong’s sermon addresses the community’s deep pain: he even redirected his sermon series to address the loss in their community. Because Pastor Ron was attentive to his church (and to the Spirit), he adjusted his sermon to fit their circumstances. In doing so, Gormong shows Spooner Wesleyan that he’s listening, he’s attentive, and he feels their wounds. Empathy is an important factor in preaching and one of the central capacities every pastor needs to build.
- He’s Not the Hero: “I found myself alone in a new place–wondering if I could cut the mustard in a new career. I’d made that transition for God’s sake, and when I made the transition I thought He’d let me down. I started to wonder if I was a misfit for the ministry.” Congregations don’t need heroes; they need pastors. By only sharing our “wins,” we unwittingly leave our congregations disconnected from the cape-clad clergy. Gormong doesn’t. Rather than trying to be a spiritual Superman, he strives to be real. By sharing his pain, Gormong identifies himself with their wounds. Sometimes, pastors need to remind congregants: “It’s ok to not be ok.” That’s most effectively done by self-revelation of our “losses.” Gormong knows this, and demonstrates it well.
- Philosophy is Fair Game: “When you need to hear from heaven most, our God is strangely silent. And when we need Him to do something most, He appears to be sitting on His hands. So the question is this: ‘Is God all-powerful? And is God all-loving, as we claim Him to be?'” Most congregants aren’t taking philosophy classes; but they are (hopefully) listening to our sermons. Philosophy isn’t clad in ivory–it weeds its way into most aspects of our lives. Why not our churches? Gormong leverages the sermon to explore big questions. His inquiries aren’t mere questions of popular psychology; he ventures into the nature, essence, and conduct of God. And almost as importantly, Ron asks questions that regulate our relationship with God.
- Story is Important: Because Gormong’s a great storyteller, it’s tough to tell where story ends and sermon begins. Multiple stories weave into a harmonious tapestry; the narratives of Job and Peggy flow together to build a case for God’s presence in our sorrows–even when we don’t see Him there. Because Gormong’s stories are powerful, they help listeners remember the sermon long after it’s been preached. By weaving together Biblical narrative, modern examples, and personal experience, Gormong tells diverse stories that relate to the unified trajectory of His sermon.
- Discard the Cape: We don’t need to be heroes; we need to be pastors. Instead of setting ourselves up as sagely experts, our pastoral role requires us to be co-travellers. Our congregations expect to be vulnerable with us; and we should be appropriately vulnerable with them, too. As we prepare next Sunday’s sermon, let’s consider telling a story that illustrates our wrestling with the Gospel’s implications for our own lives.
- Clarify Your Stories: As homileticians, we can often begin our sermons with an introductory story that has nothing to do with the point of our message. Here’s why: we forget that the introduction is what some rhetoricians call a “verbal contract” with our listener. If your introductory story makes a promise, the sermon will have to fulfill it. So maybe it’s time to stop making promises we can’t keep. As we prepare next Sunday’s sermon, let’s think back to our last few sermons. Did we tell pointless stories? Are our stories building interest in our sermons, or in something completely unrelated? Before next Sunday, let’s clarify our stories.
- Listen Up: Let’s face it: ministry is one of the “blabbing professions.” We make a living by talking, leading, and casting vision. But if we’re going to be godly leaders, we need to quiet our hearts before God and others so we can hear what’s going on in our community. Think back to your last sermon series. Did it address a need in your congregation? Was it relevant to the season of your church? As we plan our next sermon series, let’s listen to the Spirit and the voices of our congregation. Together, they help us preach the Word more fully.
By Dave Ward and Ethan Linder
Ethan Linder is a staff writer for wesleyansermons.com. A fresh graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Ethan and his wife Sarah currently live in Marion, Indiana–where Ethan is pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Christian Ministries from IWU, and Sarah is a teacher. When he’s not writing, Ethan enjoys reading, listening to music, studying cultures, running, and following the Philadelphia Phillies.