See what's coming soon! Coming in October »

Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 2010 > Spring > Incremental Preaching
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

I still remember my first sermon as a pastor. In a fit of homiletical hubris that every seminarian will recognize, I decided to impress my new congregation with my first sermon by unlocking the mysteries of the Minor Prophets. As I prepared that week, I became convinced that this could well be the most important sermon I would ever preach. If we were to grasp the holiness of God as presented by Hosea, our lives and our church would never be the same. I preached that message with passion and expectancy. But when I looked out over the congregation the next Sunday, we were pretty much the same crowd as the week before.

There isn't a preacher alive who isn't at once both energized and dismayed by the sermon's potential to effect change. Why aren't people more deeply transformed by their weekly encounters with God's Word? The deficiency can't be with the Scriptures, obviously. And most of us manage to communicate biblical truth with a measure of clarity, relevance, and conviction. So why don't we see more real, lasting change?

VIM, not just vigor

In his book Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard unpacks the dynamics of personal transformation. He begins by informing us that "we live from our heart." The heart, according to Scripture, is the control center of human personality. It's the deep, inner place where the mind, emotions, and will intersect, and where decisions are made. Our hearts have been malformed by our fallen world, and they need to be re-formed by the Spirit of God. This renovation of the heart, according to Willard, follows a predictable pattern involving vision, intention, and means—what he calls "VIM."

In the vision phase, we come to believe that a particular change is both possible and preferable. But desire alone isn't enough to produce that change. If it were, we'd all be fit, punctual, and debt-free! At some point we must decide—intend to actually get in shape, be on time, or live within our means. Having desired and decided to change, we finally need tools and practices, the means to get us to that new reality.

Any attempt to effect change that ignores one or more of these phases will fail. For example, many of us have dusty exercise equipment in our homes. We intended to get in shape, and obtained the means for doing so, but we have yet to embrace a vision compelling enough to follow through. Or consider those who dream of being professional singers but make fools of themselves on television. They have vision but lack the means—specifically singing lessons!

...

Wanting change

A few years ago, we sensed the need to lead our congregation to a deeper understanding and experience of spiritual formation. In light of Willard's insights, and the depth of change we were seeking, we decided to devote an entire ministry year to the effort, and to apply the VIM template to our preaching and programming calendar.

We began in September with a vision series from the Beatitudes. The series was designed to paint a portrait of the kind ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Also in this Issue: Spring 2010

Catching WavesSubscriber Access Only

Francis Chan says we should stop trying to make people love Jesus, and learn to rely on prayer, elders, and the Holy Spirit instead.

The End of WanderlustSubscriber Access Only

Will fewer family moves produce more stable churches?

Knowing God through Story and ImaginationSubscriber Access Only

A review of "Word Pictures" by Brian Godawa.

A Repenting Church

How one congregation turned (and continues to turn) from its sins.

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating: Not rated

No comments

Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Editor's Pick
The Love of Letting Be

The Love of Letting Be

What if we stopped trying to rationalize God ... and other people?
Sister Sites