What is The Gathering? Part IV: Why the Sermon is the Way It Is

Lance Marshall3Aah, the sermon, the most “Gathering” thing about The Gathering! There are many different schools of thought regarding preaching, but all agree that messages need to be customized to their context in order to make an impact. So what is a Gathering sermon like, and why do we do it this way?

We started The Gathering from a blank slate, and I tried to take a fresh approach to the formation and content of the “sermon” portion of the service. I challenged myself to re-imagine how I could design the message, focusing on the lessons I have learned as a preacher and as a congregation member.

In my own experience, I respond most strongly to messages where the speaker teaches me something, providing me with a deeper understanding of the context and meaning of the scripture we are studying and how it relates to the Christian faith. I grew up going to church, but I still have a lot of learning left to do. I am invigorated, inspired, and motived in my life of discipleship every time a new “piece of the puzzle” falls into place, and I try to provide that experience for others as often as I can. As I tinkered with new forms of sermons and ways to communicate in church, I decided to prioritize teaching as a primary goal of every Gathering message.

As a congregant, I always respond to a sermon most powerfully when the speaker is authentic, willingly sharing aspects of his or her life that are vulnerable and relatable. I don’t expect speakers to be two-dimensional caricatures of a preacher or teacher. I expect them to have human experiences and make human mistakes, and I really want them to trust me enough to share those lessons and reflections with me. As a speaker, then, I have to be willing to do the same, to be authentic in the “pulpit” and willing to share who I really am in order to help others grow in their faith.

Finally, I always love when a speaker really “risks” something in the message — when they put their convictions and their hopes and dreams for the congregation out on the line. At the end of the message, I want the speaker to proclaim how this is Good News and how we can be a part of it. Mixed together with insightful teaching and authentic reflection, this proclamation of the gospel stirs my heart and moves me to a deeper place in my relationship with Christ.

So that’s what a Gathering sermon is like.

See you on Sunday,



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