Sermon Title: He Knows Me—Why Am I Here?
Sermon Link: https://youtu.be/UEhNDjqfJmE
Preacher: Kenneth Wagner is the Lead Pastor of United Church in Dover, DE. One of the greatest Wesleyan Missional Priorities is Urban Urgency—a focus on reaching the unchurched in cities and large towns. Church planters are at the forefront of reaching the unchurched in these communities. Kenneth and Sherry Wagner planted United Church in Dover, Delaware with a mission to “See those far from God be united in Christ.” In this preaching moment, Kenneth demonstrates some replication-worthy communication strategies which we’ll highlight below.
Pastor Kenneth Shows Us:
- Celebrations Shape Preaching: “We saw 30 people come home here within the last weeks.”
Kenneth opens his sermon by celebrating the church’s fulfillment of their mission to reach the lost in Dover. By discussing salvations as “coming home,” he also reminds the church of an opportunity to rejoice with people newly welcomed into God’s family. Wagner also uses the beginning of the sermon to discuss their church’s #ForDover mission: United’s way of engaging the community outside the church walls. This #ForDover initiative has taken United into service at community events, partnerships with local schools, and relationships with police officers in Dover (along with a whole lot of other exciting things). By sharing these “victories” with the congregation, Pastor Kenneth reminds us that celebration often leads to replication.
- Preaching Redefines the Common: “The average human’s lifespan is 28,750 days—and this seems like a long time, but we wake up tomorrow and it’s 28,749 days; and by the end of the week, you have 28,743. I’m 29, which means I’ve lived about 10,585 days; that’s pretty sobering.”
Earthly life is a limited resource; most of us know this. But when was the last time we put a number to this assumption? While we’re aware of the finitude of our lives, Kenneth’s day-by-day breakdown brings perspective on how we spend our days. Seasoned preachers (and congregants) can sometimes be lulled into repetition of the same rhythms, phrases, and perspectives: leaving their congregations with a bland diet of spiritual food. Kenneth reminds us of our need to shed new light on ancient truth—providing fresh perspective on something that could’ve otherwise passed unnoticed. As a result, every key point of Kenneth’s sermon helps the congregation read with “fresh eyes.” When we hear a preacher sharing new discoveries in familiar texts, we can reframe our own spiritual journey: anticipating fresh spiritual insights from long-known truths.
- Transitions Move the Mind (in the right direction): “If these numbers are legit, wouldn’t it be wise to ask ourselves, ‘Why am I here?’”
Transitions are like switch-rails: they can either provide new direction or derail the sermonic train. Kenneth masterfully transitions between concrete statistics and existential questions. The congregation has a grasp on the finitude of life, which establishes urgency to know life’s meaning. Wagner uses this shift to provide insight into God’s perspective on life’s purpose, and injects a communal emphasis (at United Church) on seeking God-imbued passion and purpose. This flows harmoniously with Kenneth’s earlier articulation of United’s “wins,” catalyzing his later discussion of how each person contributes to United’s mission of seeing those far from God united in Christ.
- Words Can Dance: “Regardless of what anyone has said about you in the past, you are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned for you, but God did. There are such things as illegitimate parents; but there’s no such thing as an illegitimate child.”
Pews are full of rejection, wounds, and pain. Through this quote, Kenneth sheds light into God’s redemption of hurtful labels and discouraging words carried by some in the congregation. Because he knows Dover’s family demographics, Pastor Kenneth’s words are crafted to remind those who are coming from broken homes that God longs to see them restored to His family (even if their family has no interest in restoration). He also reminds the congregation of God’s longing to know, love, and be for them.
“Even greater than being known by Dean Rizzo, even greater than being known by the mayor of Dover is being known by the Creator of the Universe. He knows you; and not only does He know you, He loves you. And not only does He love you, He is for you. He wants you to thrive right where you are.”
To a community full of people who have experienced rejection, Kenneth provides a reminder of God’s faithful love and steadfast commitment to His people’s well-being. During any given Sunday, we preach to people in pain. Our preaching must contribute to people’s healing, not pile on greater wounds and burdens of insufficiency.
- Define The Celebration: As you prepare your next sermon series, define what you celebrate. What does your church doing for our community? What would we like to see more of in our congregation?
- Redefine Something Common: What part of the Gospel doesn’t speak to you very much anymore? Identify a few key passages, and write down how you might be able to preach one of these passages by looking at it with fresh eyes. Ask questions you haven’t asked before, talk to others about their perspectives on the passage, and read a new commentary by someone whose opinion you might not usually consult.
- Heal with Words: As you prepare the coming sermon series, try to identify people’s pain before identifying their problems. Ask: “What hurt might my preaching help heal in the coming weeks?” By doing so, your preaching might become even more compassionate—and may heal some deep-seated wounds in the hearts of your congregation.
By Ethan Linder and Dave Ward