Preacher: Stacy Shaw
Sermon Title: The Part We Play
Sermon Link: (audio)

Stacy ShawPart of what we have done over the last year at Wesleyan Sermons is to include sermons from preachers you may not think of immediately. Often the senior pastors of the largest congregations get the most footprint. There is reason for this, many times they are consistently very good preachers. There are other good preachers however with different callings from whom we can learn. Stacy Shaw is the Student Ministries Pastor at Victory Highway Wesleyan Church in Painted Post, NY. Her student ministry is vibrant, growing, evangelistic, and one of the reasons is her focus on preaching.  Here are a few things we think preachers can learn from her:

Don’t be the hero.

Step into the pulpit, and many in the room will automatically view you as the authority. The weight that a preacher carries into her pulpit is powerful and must be stewarded with boldness, confidence, and humility. Pastor Stacy does exactly this. She was not the hero of her story. Her message wasn’t, “Look at how I’ve done this right.”  When the story you tell makes you the hero, you do not allow room for people to see how God has moved on your behalf and you appear cocky. You risk losing your audience, or making people believe that you have it all together. Stacy’s first story was about a time when she had taken marker to a wall in her childhood basement. This was a lighthearted story, to be sure, but it did not make her the hero. She continued this trend throughout her sermon; while she speaks with authority, she does not pretend that she has this all figure out. She’s confident, but not arrogant. She’s humble, but not insecure.

Encourage proper reading.

Preaching is not only a presentation of the Word. Good preaching also teaches your congregation how to better read and study Scripture for themselves. Pastor Stacy implicitly encouraged us to read stories in context, peek at the original language of the text, and give due attention to detail by doing so herself. One example of this is her attention to where the story of the bleeding woman lies. This woman’s story is not told as a solitary story, but right in the middle of another.  “And her story is so beautiful, but it should never be read alone. It happens in the middle of a man named Jairus’ story — this wealthy, influential, religious leader.” These stories aren’t accidentally thrown together. The fact that they are told together changes the way we interpret these two stories. It is examples like this that indirectly inform our congregation how to read Scripture not just while they sit in the pews, but when they read Scripture on their own.

Educate yourself on prayer.

Pastor Stacy Shaw is not content to spoon-feed her congregation a list of prayers to pray. Instead she encourages her congregation to educate themselves on prayer. I believe this is one of the best gifts a preacher can give her congregation. She does give some helpful instruction on how to pray; she has not left us in the dark. But towards the end of her sermon she confesses and pleads, “I have thirty minutes with you. It’s a tip of the iceberg type of sermon. There is so much more for you to learn about prayer.” She knows that a thirty-minute sermon is not enough to inform her people about prayer. Instead, they should go and educate themselves on prayer as well; they must continue the work that God has started in these thirty minutes.

Avoid self stories.

Telling stories about ourselves from the pulpit can be good and helpful, especially when we don’t make ourselves out to be the hero. However, when we perpetually tell stories about ourselves from the pulpit, even if we aren’t the hero, our sermons begin to sound a little self-centered and makes the Gospel look small. On the other hand, when we tell the stories of others, we invite people to imagine and experience God in contexts and circumstances that are not our own. We begin to understand that God’s work is wider and more wonderful than we could have imagined than if we insist on merely telling our own stories.

How do you talk about interpretation of Scripture?

You have spent time studying the Word. You believe you understand the message of the passage and what God might have to say about it for your context this week. Your work is far from finished. You must now begin to think about how you will talk about the process. How did you work your way through this passage? Obviously, you cannot adequately explain the entire process. So much of this happens in our minds over the long haul of sermon preparation and is difficult to parse. Yet small demonstrations and explanations of how to read, how to study, and how to interpret over time add up.

Encourage education.

As a part of your charge to your congregation, encourage them to continue seeking some of their own learning. There are a hundred ways to do this. Give them a list of books they can read. Encourage them to seek out helpful exploratory tools, like an emotional IQ (EQ) test. Suggest that they seek out a counselor or spiritual director. Celebrate the ongoing process of learning and personal and spiritual growth.