Playing Christ : preaching and performing the drama of God’s mission
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In my survey of missional literature produced over the past ten years, I was struck by the minimal space given to (and often complete omission of) the role of preaching in the missional church conversation. In more extreme cases, preaching is regarded as “ineffective” and even an “impediment” to “going missional.” This greatly troubled me, especially since I am part of a Reformed tradition that affirms the ministry of Word and Sacrament as a primary means of grace by which the triune God missionizes us and forms us as a missional people. So I set out to explore the relationship between the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and the missio Dei, particularly interested in what kind of preaching cultivates a missional imagination among God’s people. I came to the conclusion that the kind of preaching that does this is that which draws people into the drama of the triune God’s mission, where our lives get re-scripted in Christ and we are transformed and empowered by the Spirit to improvise our parts (“play Christ”) to the glory of God and for the sake of the world. I then set out to identify key characteristics of missonal preaching toward this end. In addition, I was curious as to which of these key characteristics were most present and most absent in my own sermons and how I might increase my capacity to incorporate them in my regular practice of missional preaching. This led to my final project, which involved two phases of meeting with focus groups in my congregation who provided feedback on my sermons and also helped me refine and develop the characteristics. In the end, I arrived at a final list of seven key characteristics of missional preaching, along with a sermon evaluation tool, as a way of offering clues to other preachers who want to embrace and practice a kind of preaching that shapes God’s people for mission in the world.