This morning we had our monthly pastoral gathering.  Some still call it a winkel, but most just refer to it as a circuit meeting.  Current and retired pastors from 30 miles north of me to 70 miles south of me gathering for fellowship, theological discussion, and worship with Holy Communion.  I don’t always want to go.  There are plenty of other things I could be doing.  But it’s a good thing to go so I do.

This morning discussion was dominated by the events and decisions of our denominational polity’s recent national convention.  One of the resolutions that brought out a great deal of vehemence among some of my colleagues was a recommendation or encouragement sort of resolution that pastors should preach more interesting sermons.  There was some annoyance at the vague and non-specific nature of such a resolution.  Who gets to define interesting?  How are they going to ensure that sermons are uniformly interesting?  It’s the kind of resolution that doesn’t accomplish much other than to serve as a reminder that people have to listen to what we preach every Sunday.

Other colleagues were offended that anyone might suggest that they could use any help or direction in their preaching.  Some cited the number of years and decades they had been preaching.  Some close to retirement laughed off any such suggestion – they were too established in their patterns to ever change.  Both are honest statements.  It’s difficult to accept constructive criticism.  We also exist in a denomination with a history of division, where trust does not come easily among peers. Such resolutions are interpreted as an attempt by some to get power over others, which naturally is a concerning thing.

But while the resolution doesn’t have any real teeth to it to actually require more interesting sermons, the idea that every preacher regardless of context or age or experience can constantly benefit from feedback and ongoing training makes a lot of sense to me.  Doing something for a long time doesn’t guarantee that I do it well.  Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but you certainly aren’t going to get closer to perfect without practice.

I’m always looking for opportunities and experiences to help me improve my preaching.  It’s the most public part of my job.  I get to do it every Sunday.  Anything that could help me do it better would be a huge blessing both to myself and hopefully to my congregation.  I shouldn’t have to have a resolution or even a mandatory continuing education requirement to make me desire those things.  As both a lifelong learner and lifelong teacher, that process of continual improvement is ingrained in me.  Hopefully I’ll feel the same when I’ve been preaching for 20 or 30 or even 40 years, God-willing.  And hopefully by seeking out different experiences and contexts and means of learning, what I learn and how it shapes me will be a greater and greater blessing to the people I’m called to serve.

In the meantime, hopefully encouragements and resolutions are made and received in the best way.  Not to manipulate, threaten, or control others, but as a means for spurring all of us on towards constant improvement and growth to the blessing of God’s people and Church.




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