Preachers have different goals to their preaching styles and content. Some talk about changing our heads and thus preach intellectually engaging sermons. Others talk about changing our hands and give us actionable steps to go out into the world and do something. Still others speak of preaching to the heart so that over time the heart is converted to Christ and love for neighbor expands beyond our small identities. Still others argue for a combination of these three goals.
In this way, preaching is like boxing. Using different moves, statements and arguments, the preacher is attempting to spar with the congregation. Not in a combative way, but in a way that builds stamina and endurance for the struggles of life.
And so, many preachers are looking for the one line, the one idea the one point for a sermon that can “land.” Something so poignant, clever, beautiful or compelling that it hits people and knocks them off their feet. Some preachers might even try to preach to hit you in the face so hard that it knocks you out! The preacher is trying to land blows on a congregation that is sparing with her.
However, in our attempts to ““knock people out” or “hit ’em in the head” with such powerful sermons, we are overlooking that Jesus is more of a body puncher than one who goes for the face.
Going for the knock out blow is quick and exciting, and going for the body is slow and less flashy. The preacher who “hits” people in the stomach with the sermon, may never knock anyone out. But after we are hit in the body a few times our breathing changes.
Rather than preach to the head, hands or heart, what would it look like for the preacher to preach to the breath.
What would it look like for sermons not to change our minds or even our hearts, but the very way we breathe? The very way we take in and let go of the breath/spirit in our lungs?
The Rev. Jason Valendy, along with his wife the Rev. Estee Valendy, serves as co-pastor of Saginaw United Methodist Church in Saginaw, Texas. This post is republished with permission from the author’s blog JasonValendy.net.