IVP - Online Pulpit - Foxhole Preaching

February 1, 2009

Foxhole Preaching

Soldiers don’t win wars in foxholes. Sure, a soldier can take potshots from a foxhole, but it’s not an offensive but a defensive tactic. As an associate pastor my preaching felt like that—foxhole preaching. When the senior pastor asked me, I popped out of my associate hole and took a shot at it. It was a very unsatisfying way of preaching.

After a few years I was able to move into a more offensive posture. I developed some sermon series with the senior pastor, and sometimes I would actually get to preach more than once in the series. I still wasn’t working offensively overall, but it was a move in the right direction. Now that I am serving as a solo pastor, I am thrilled to be on the preaching offensive. I am taking the initiative and have the target clearly in sight, and all my energy and resources are being focused toward that goal. It’s also tremendously freeing not to be burdened with the “what am I going to preach this week” syndrome. Here’s what I am doing—and loving doing it.

Out of the Foxhole

On my study leave I (1) choose a theme or themes for the year and broadly sketch out a year’s preaching plan (it can be designed around topics or books), (2) outline three or four months of sermons, and (3) make detailed preparations for the first six to eight weeks. Sound impossible? It’s not. But it does require time.

For example, here’s what I did to begin my ministry in my present church. The theme of the first three (summer) months of sermons was Catching a Glimpse—What God Can Do Through Ordinary People (demonstrated by people like Abraham, Moses, Esther and the boy with the fish and loaves). During the autumn kickoff month we revisited the marks of the church from Acts 2. Then we spent several weeks studying biblical teachings on stewardship. After one week of Thanksgiving, we focused on Advent and Christmas. Obviously, I have to be flexible. Besides holy days, there’s always special events like Mother’s Day and confirmation. And I must be able to respond when there’s a need for an immediate and relevant word from God to unexpected events like 9/11 or the Southern California fires.

Since I don’t foxhole preach any more, I decided to preach through the Gospel of John because I sensed a need for my church to revisit who Jesus is. (I could use the review as well!) With all the special church services included, the plan got us through John 13 by the end of the year. (Lo and behold, my John plan got me through two years of preaching!) I identified the main focus and title of sermons for three or four months. I created outlines for two months. Then I began working on the first few weeks. What a relief.

And what an opportunity for creativity to arise. Since I had the plan laid out and percolating in my head and heart, a wealth of everyday resources, the myriad flavors of life—things I read, hear, see, feel, smell—could find their way into my preaching.

Personality or Philosophy?

Someone asked me if I did this because of my personality. (I think they were asking if I was some kind of a organization freak!) I responded that it is a result of my philosophy of ministry, not my personality. I believe preaching should be intentional and ordered by God’s Word, not by my weekly whims.

Foxholes are for mere survival. An organized preaching front will win the war.

Posted by Candie Blankman at February 1, 2009 8:46 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed for this entry.