Sermon: The Coming Lord
Preacher: Clint Ussher is the lead pastor of The Well Church in Christ Church, New Zealand: a five year old church plant that longs to see big things happen through an encounter with God and awakening to His love.
Preaching reveals much about the preacher’s homiletical practices. During this sermon, Pastor Clint displays some superb preaching principles.
Pastor Clint Shows Us That:
- Context is Important: “This is one of those times where we pray for car parks. We think, ‘Oh, Lord, if I can just get into one quick, I don’t mind walking a little farther than I’d like to.’ I think it’s funny right here in New Zealand where everything’s frantic and hectic and then everything stops for a month.”
Pastor Clint begins his sermon by appealing to collective experience: the busyness of the Christmas season. As New Zealanders shop for gifts at the local mall (which he references by name), their prayers turn from more spiritual matters to trivial self-absorption. By naming familiar places, Pastor Clint appeals to his congregation’s shared consciousness: the locations they visit regularly. But he also points to the feelings most Christian-influenced cultures experience around the holidays: pressures of consumerism, anxiety about holiday preparations, and prioritization of the “reason for the season.” Because he knows his the feelings, locations, and struggles of his congregation, Pastor Clint makes insightful connections that lend him immediate credibility with newcomers.
- Words Can Sizzle: “‘I will dwell among you.’ This is the same language used in regards to the purpose of the Temple and Tabernacle. God’s covenant is for all people. God longs to tabernacle in us.”
Pastor Clint uses a word study to express, not impress. He discusses the purpose of the word, and how its inclusion in both passages draws us into God’s redemptive work. Although his research is evident, he keeps his explanation concise and pertinent to the conversation—using study to drive home his point. As we write our sermons, we also need to attend to the motives behind our word studies. Does the word study make the connection “sizzle”? Or are we including word studies to extol our own knowledge of original texts? When we savor Scripture’s words, they reveal deeper meanings… and when we present them to others, they sizzle.
- Point to Resolution (make us want to feel it): “Our worship should include both/and. Our experience of worship is reduced if we pick one over the other; we need an approach that balances the transcendence of God… with His immanence. We need one that helps us balance the exaltation of God with His closeness to us. We need an approach that balances exuberance and expressive praise with quiet and reflective worship.”
Ussher notices a conflict in church culture, and proposes a way forward. Recognizing denominational disparity surrounding worship, Pastor Clint helps his congregation realize the relative unimportance of preference. As a result, the congregation is liberated to see other denominations as co-worshippers, collectively responding to God’s salvific action. Ussher’s conflict resolution enables the congregation to see the church as a God-woven tapestry composed of the “fabric” of diverse opinions and traditions.
- Focus Outward: “The work in Cambodia is flourishing; a sustainable model is breaking through. God raised up two families in response especially to the prayers of an eight year old boy. There are now many more Wesleyan churches in that part of the world.”
Not only does pastor Clint point out where God is “springing up” in Christchurch, New Zealand; he also takes a significant portion of the service to highlight God’s work of other nations’ churches. He highlights missionary efforts by Global Partners in Africa and Cambodia, talks about an Australian Church’s work, and discusses 12Stone Church’s reverse-offering in Georgia. After doing so, Clint locates The Well in God’s work of springing into action.
- Open Up New Possibilities: “Don’t miss those ways in which God is springing into action. Ask God to attune your hearts to them so we don’t miss them.” “Church, God is here; He is far more present, far more active, and far more involved in our world than we can ever imagine. He is springing into action all over the place. It’s been true for us in the past, and because of that, we can hold true to this: knowing it will be true in the future.”
Pastor Clint’s tone and word choices harmonize to convey anticipation for God’s saving work. As a result, the congregation walks away with a desire for attention to “God-sightings” in their lives. Great preaching leads congregations to see new possibilities for The Spirit’s work in them, through them, and with them. The world is dark; great preaching reveals the light.
- Include Your Community: As you prepare your next sermon series, include a reference to something all your congregation would be familiar with (a location, event, etc). Try to do something that will build the community up, and help your congregation love it more. Often we only denigrate what everyone knows, and convict them for it. Redeem it, elevate it, and bring Christian perspective to it.
- Focus Outward: Include an international reference in your next sermon. Whether it’s a news story, a missionary endeavor, or a church in your denomination somewhere else in the world, think about how your congregation can see (and admire) God’s work in other people groups. Lift their visions beyond your local church to the church universal.
- Open Possibilities: Preach towards new possibilities for your congregation. Before preaching your next sermon, ask: “What does this sermon make possible?” If sermons don’t provide value to people’s lives, they only preach against sin—not for newness of life. We want to see the gospel not only convict people sin, but convince people of the value of good works. We want to not only free Christians from guilt, but free Christians for joyful service.
By Ethan Linder and Dave Ward