SERMON: Loving the Broken | Dan Walker

Preacher: Dan Walker
Title: “Loving the Broken” –

Dan Walker worked at Love, INC in Brevard County, Florida for years, before moving to Marion, Indiana. Dan is now a Community Pastor in Marion, and a D.Min student at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL.

Below are several practices Dan exhibits in this sermon that can help us as we cultivate better preaching:

Connection to Congregational Mission:

Preaching’s effectiveness can be measured by so many things: faithful exegesis, effective diagnosis of the human condition, and attentiveness to context, to name a few. But underneath all those metrics is an assumption that preaching invites the congregation into relationship with God and faithfulness to His mission. Because Dan is a guest speaker, knowing how best to connect with God’s mission at that particular place is challenging. Fortunately, Walker does his homework, starting the sermon with a reference to the previous weeks’ messages, and emphasizing ways the congregation’s mission dovetails with God’s work in their county.

Strong Connecting Statements

Transitions are the weakest part of many sermons. Consequently, those in the pews sometimes find themselves suffering from exegetical whiplash as the preacher leaps from one movement of the sermon to the next, giving little thought to the junctions between each stop. Walker helps his listeners follow along seamlessly from one block of the sermon to the next. Example: Walker says, “Who doesn’t love seeing the transformation of a life–one who was polluted now being clean? And yet in our effort to avoid works-righteousness, we have worked so hard at emphasizing salvation in grace by faith that we often say works are worth nothing.”

With these two sentences, Walker connects the congregation’s desire to see heart transformation (one block of the sermon) with a reminder that part of this heart-transformation is good works that bring wholeness to a community (the next block of the sermon).

Structured Improvisation

Walker is careful with his words, but his caution doesn’t bind him to the manuscript. Instead, it anchors him with a sense of where each movement of the sermon begins and ends, and allows him the freedom to improvise along the way. There are several beautiful sentences throughout, but the beauty is functional, not ornamental. Hearers have a clearer picture of the gospel’s implications on their own life, but don’t feel the need to “ooh” and “ahh” over specific sentences. True eloquence is about clarity, not ornamentation. For functional craftsmanship–a house, a coffee table, or a sermon–beauty is only helpful insofar as it is useful.

Broad Invitation

Walker’s conclusion makes it clear that the implications of this sermon require two things: 1) An ongoing conversation with God, and 2) Service to the community that harmonizes with God’s work. Beyond that, hearers are free to decide what to do next.

Some preachers err on the side of not providing enough direction for parishioners to follow after the sermon (this can leave hearers unclear on their next action); others err on the side of providing too much direction (this can leave too little room for the congregation to discern God’s call). By providing a broader conclusion with specific guardrails, Walker invites the congregation to listen for God’s voice as to how they might serve their community.

To Try Before Sunday:

  • Elevate God’s Mission in Your Community: Consider finding a story from an organization/person in your community that’s not affiliated with your church; describe how God is bringing His mission to bear in your community outside just your own effort. If it fits, tell the story in your sermon; if not, rejoice and be encouraged by God’s ongoing work.
  • Flight Check Your Transitions: Before you lead your congregation through your sermon’s transitions, practice the sermon out loud. Specifically focus on the end of each paragraph and ask, “Does this lead into the next paragraph, or would I be confused?” (Hint: if you’re almost confused, change it).
  • Broaden, then Narrow: Identify what the passage you’re preaching on calls for from the listeners; how does your sermon’s conclusion extend that invitation? Is it broad enough to give the congregation a chance to practice discernment instead of just following orders? Is it narrow enough that hearers will have a clear sense of what God–through this passage–is calling for?