Quest for the perfect sermon : Gospel-centered, story-shaped preaching
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Preaching has taken it on the chin in recent years. The value of sermons is suspect. And yet, I serve a congregation where listeners gather every week with a sense of expectation that they will hear God speak to them through the sermon. I am curious about how this expectation develops and how this expectation shapes the congregation. In my context, we emphasize gospel and storytelling in sermons, and so a focus on gospel-centered, story-shaped preaching narrowed the scope of my project. The first step of my exploration attempted to define the gospel. Next, I looked at storytelling. Finally, I looked at preaching and how it shapes listeners within my congregation, Cedar Hills Community Church, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the final stage of exploration, I convened three collaborative study groups to study preaching texts, discuss sermon preparation and evaluate sermons. I used a narrative inquiry research approach to collect feedback formally from the study groups and informally from the congregation. By listening carefully to the stories the congregation told, I explored this thesis: gospel-centered, story-shaped preaching shapes listeners so that they will be equipped to share the story of Jesus in a way that invites others to lean in and say, “Tell me more.” After spending so much time in a story-rich environment, it made sense to report on the project with a story.