Urban Leadership Collective: Dancing To The Rhythm of Grace

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina..

I’m writing this blog for the church planters and pastors who have asked me, “How do you prepare a sermon?”
And I’m writing it for the Transformation Church Family so that “Transformers” will know how to pray for me as I prepare sermons for them that will hopefully cause us to reflect Jesus to our broken planet. So, here it is … my preparation regimen … it’s really pretty simple.

I dance to the rhythm of God’s grace.

Now, keep in mind, I’m still a young preacher, so my dance moves aren’t very polished. But I’m a passionate learner and here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Before I prepare a sermon, Jesus must prepare me.
Within weeks of becoming a Christ-follower, Ezra 7:10 inspired me to pray, “Lord, empower me to study Your word, obey Your word, and teach Your word.”
When we pray before preaching we’re saying to Jesus, “I need a revelation of You,” “I need Your power for my life and the lives of the people I’m preaching to.”
By the way, be on guard…the better you get at preaching, the easier it’ll be not to pray.

It’s vitally important that the preacher knows that all Scripture points to Jesus (Luke 24:13-49). This is called Christo-centric preaching or historical–redemptive preaching. Jesus said:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40 ESV

In every one of my sermons, Jesus is the hero!
In every one of my sermons, it’s ultimately about what Jesus has done to redeem humanity and bring His kingdom to earth through His redeemed, glorious Bride, the Church.
If we don’t preach Christo-centrically, the hearer of the sermon might conclude that Jesus exists to help them fulfill their dreams, instead of being agents that co-labor with Him so His dream (Kingdom of God) can become a life-giving reality here on earth.
Or we become moralistic preachers. The Bible becomes a life-less, flesh satisfying, self-help book of principles on “how to be successful” or “how to get God to do what we want Him to do.” Moralistic preaching produces legalists or people who quit under the weight of not living up to the standards. By the way, moralistic, legalistic preachers don’t live up to their own standards either; that’s why they always seem mad.

Preachers must understand the content of Scripture and context of cultural. Before you think I’m all deep with that statement, I heard Dr. Ed Stetzer say it first.
It’s not enough to know the content of Scripture, we also need to know the people we’re preaching to and the culture they’re situated in. The gospel never, ever, ever changes, but the culture does. Therefore, we must be like an artist and paint a picture of Jesus and His redemptive work that hearers can see, feel, and respond to.

After I’ve done my exegetical, Christo-centric work, I ask myself three questions:
What do I want people to think about Jesus and His redemptive work? (Head)
What do I want people to feel about Jesus and His redemptive work? (Heart)
What do I want people to allow Jesus to do in their lives as a result work? (Hands)

Preachers, remember that less is more. Focus your sermons on one big idea or theme. At the end my sermons, I have what I call a “Soul-tattoo.” This is the one big idea that I want people to take home and do something with.
Preachers, be simple but not simplistic. True genius is the ability to communicate the complex in a way that is easy to understand.
Preachers, preach like what you’re preaching has actually transformed and is transforming your life.

Finally, I pray that my preaching flows of out Jesus’ transformative work in my own life. I pray my preaching is an act of worship in response to His wonder-inspiring grace.
Dance . . . I say dance so others can dance to the rhythm of God’s grace and get down too!

Follow Derwin Gray on Twitter @DerwinLGray

Chad Horton

Written by Chad Horton

Chad Horton has been in the music business since 2000 with a focus on digital distribution, streaming, playlisting, and social media marketing. Chad is currently a Partnership Producer at hi5.agency working with clients such as Blizzard Entertainment, Google Pixel, and more. Chad also owns and operates Rapzilla.com. Originally from Northern California, Chad became a San Diego resident in 2004 where he currently resides with his wife and children.

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