When Your Preaching Well Runs Dry

By: William D. Shiell

It started with a cinnamon crunch bagel. That, and the realization that I had run out of material to preach. After pastoring two churches and completing graduate work, the well was dry. I was in a new city, learning the DNA of an established downtown congregation, and trying to connect with the body of Christ.

Into my life walked Shaun, George, Dave, and Ed. We had a few things in common. We were Pastors. Panera Bread was centrally located. All of us tried to preach the lectionary (or at least the themes from each week.) We served diverse congregations. We approached sermon preparation much differently. One was a musician who sang through his sermons, another memorized his scripture each week. One brought high liturgy to a rural congregation, another improvised better than most scripted homilies. We came from churches that fit a variety of labels: downtown, rural, white, African American, Baptist, Methodist, educated.

Together we stumbled into something that Northern Seminary had already discovered: the value of collaboration.

Beginning with the lectionary text each week, we discussed themes and ideas. We shared our joy and our pain. We listened and prayed. Sometimes a Pastor shared a story that fit another person’s sermon. At others, we simply reflected together on the joy of preaching. We texted, encouraged, and called each other. We filled each other’s well. We found things in the lectionary we never saw before, and we learned when the Holy Spirit was calling us to preaching something else. We refilled the sermon well and learned to draw water when the well was dry.

After a couple of years, we began to scatter. Shaun is now in Atlanta, George in Richmond. Ed is still writing music and poetry in East Tennessee, and Dave is there too. I’m in Lombard. But the journey of friendship and collaboration still continues.

If this kind of preaching resonates with you, joins us for our second annual Preaching Forum October 1. Register by September 15 to be a part of this special gathering. We might even share a bagel together.

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August 25, 2016

William D. Shiell

President, and Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William



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