Few aspects of local church ministry are as challenging or necessary as bridging the timeless truths of the gospel to the historically contingent, ever-changing context of the surrounding culture. Enthusiasm for proper contextualization is to be commended. The Word of God must be made intelligible in order for it to edify (1 Cor. 9:19–23; 14:22–25).
The video-venue model of ministry—showing a live feed or recorded sermon on screens rather than having an in-person pastor preaching on stage—is an example of a popular method of ministry contextualization that, despite its efficiencies, is problematic.
I’m not talking about videotaping a live sermon and making it available on a website for those unable to attend church on Sunday. I’m talking about ministries where a sermon-on-the-screen, delivered to a satellite campus by a remote feed, has become normative for the Sunday morning service. Read More
In my most recent article I noted that one of the challenges that has faces small Anglican churches is that they often have lay preachers who are not licensed to preach sermons of their own composition and must read sermons written by pastors who are authorized to compose and preach their own sermons. These sermons are either generic or reflect a different context from the lay preacher's church. The lay preacher is not able to contextualize them. This practice has historically been a factor in the slow growth of the Anglican Church in the United States and Canada. it embodies a maintenance mindset rather than mission one.
Early in my ministry as a lay reader I subscribed to a sermon service like Sermons That Work but I found the sermons that this service provided were irrelevant to my church and its context. I welcomed the opportunity my pastor gave me to compose and preach my own sermons. He initially reviewed and approved the sermons but after he became satisfied that I was not going to preach false doctrine or heresy, he relaxed these strictures.
The problems that Joe Hellerman identifies in this article also impact Anglican lay preachers reading sermons that they themselves did not compose.
In areas like the one in which I live and minister and in which Protestant churches predominate, the churchgoing population and the non-churchgoing population that has previously attended a church generally values sermons and preaching.(In my area less roughly 2% of the general population is Catholic; less than 1% is Anglican or Lutheran.) Sermons and preaching may be one of the main reasons that the churchgoing population attends a church. Churches whose pastor has a good reputation as a preacher tend to attract the most churchgoers. This puts the Anglican lay preacher at a disadvantage. No matter how well he reads the sermons that he is authorized to read, he is no match for the pastor who has composed and is preaching his own sermon.
A number of churches in my area permit lay preachers to preach sermons of their own composition. They see these preachers as potential future pastors and their licensure of these preachers as a way they can contribute to their preparation for pastoral ministry. These preachers are often invited to preach in other churches of the same denomination. These practices provide local associations and other local subdivisions of denominational judicatories with a pool of up-and-coming preachers from which they can recruit new pastors to replace retiring ones.