Collaborative Preaching

Written by Joel on December 28th, 2010

I was listening to a replay of Jon Stewart’s Oct. 4, 2010 interview on Fresh Air this morning. During the portion I heard he was talking about his daily schedule to develop his fake news show. There is a morning team meeting, writing assignments, and rewrites. Jon may be the face of the show but it is truly a collaborative effort. This is the case in many forms of communication; teams of writers and researchers work together to develop their message. Talk shows, news programs, sit-coms, late shows, dramas, movies, musicals, and more. Have you ever sat down to watch the entire line of credits roll after tv shows or movies?

It made me wonder why preaching seems to be such an individual effort. I don’t have teams of researchers and writers. I don’t have a team meeting and re-write sessions. Sure, I attend a lectionary group and collaborate with other preachers but at the end of the day, the responsibility seems to come down to just me. Research, study, exegesis, story development, and delivery. A lot of work for one person. Plenty of preachers do it week in and week out. I try my best.

Perhaps preachers in our modern day simply follow the example of Jesus, the solitary preacher on the mount; and the long tradition of solitary preachers to follow him. But is this the only way to develop a sermon?

I wonder what the process of a collaborative sermon would look like.

Imagine a congregation which gathered on Monday to look at the scriptures for the coming Sunday. They discern together the text to focus on for the homily. Someone might compare all the gospels, another may look up all the old testament references, some one else may do some word studies to get a sense of what this text may mean for this faith community. Perhaps on Wednesday they would gather again and share stories, develop analogies and parables, and share examples from their own lives which illumine the text. They would ask “what does this have to do with us today?” Later it would be written by those with a craft for words, to say it in just the right way. Some writers may have a gift for wit and humor. Others perhaps would offer a quite potent phrase they have been ruminating on for the week. They would gather again to develop a single, unified, strong message of God’s truth found in scripture. The message would then be rewritten in order to be refined by the collaborators; demanding more precise language, more detail in a section, cutting unnecessary tangents.  Finally it is given to the one tasked with delivering the message. The preacher would give voice to the thoughts and words but it is not a project of the preacher alone. The people of God gathered together to celebrate the word of God.

Working together, perhaps a congregation can offer a better homily. The process in itself may prove to be a spiritual benefit. Maybe it wouldn’t work but it sure would be fun to try some day.

Have you ever heard a collaborative sermon preached? How did that work?


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jerry says:

    Beginning next Wednesday our morning bible study will be studying the upcoming week’s sermon text. We just finished studying the bible-in-a-year and i’m really looking forward to this chance to hear from the church and how the text speaks to them.

    Good post!

  2. Eric Foley says:

    Joel, I just (today) finished reading a fantastic book by John S. McClure called The Roundtable Pulpit. It lays out a philosophy and methodology of collaborative preaching and gives great examples of what it looks like and how it works. I bought the book on for a few bucks (it’s from 1995), and I heartily recommend it to you.

  3. Joel says:

    Thanks Eric,

    It’s in my wish list now!

Leave a Comment