Preaching or Disciple-Making: Which One Is a Higher Priority?

A friend of mine was attending a conference about ‘missional communities,’ and while there tweeted, “We spend 2 days preparing a sermon that no one remembers 3 weeks later. Maybe we should spend that time making disciples.”

I have a lot of time for the missional communities approach, but one of the things we seem to have got into the habit of doing on this blog is prodding the currently received ecclesiological wisdom (multisite, cities, numbers, vision). And this one is deserving of a prod, too!
 
While it would be unfair to get too dogmatic over one tweet that was responding to a whole conference worth of ideas, the assumptions behind it are worth questioning.

These are the kinds of things that spring to mind:
 
1. First, there is the very obvious, “But you are tweeting in response to a sermon!”

Ok, maybe it wasn’t a ‘sermon,’ rather a conference talk – but really, that is a subtle distinction. The point is information was being communicated and inspiration generated, and this was happening through the medium of someone speaking.

2. Then there is the questionable time claim.

If we view sermon prep mechanistically then, yes, it’s going to be pretty much a waste of time, no matter how long or short we give it, but that is not how it should be.

On average, I reckon I spend about ten hours in sermon ‘prep,’ so that scans pretty well with the “2 days” point.

But in reality, sermon prep is not done in ten hours, but in all of life. Sermon prep is itself actually part of the larger discipleship whole.

Getting ready to preach necessarily involves a certain amount of time sitting at a desk, but if it is going to be real preaching it involves the whole of life – all the experiences of the week by which we know the grace of Jesus and interact with other people and engage in worship. Real preaching is an overflow of a disciple’s heart and so itself is part of the discipleship process.

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Matthew Hosier
Matthew is based in Poole, Dorset, where he shares a house with one tarantula, an indeterminate number of giant African snails, two snakes, two bearded dragons, two ferrets, two dogs, four children, and one wife, and leads Gateway Church. He studied zoology at university before entering church work (and now just has a zoo), and has an MA in Christian Ethics from King’s College, London.