A Philosophy of Preaching

I am a political animal. There was a time, when I would have jumped into politics with both feet given the right opportunity and financial wherewithal. In fact, had I met the eligibility requirements for Warren county, I would have mounted a campaign for state congress this past fall.

I have some strong beliefs and find myself having to exercise some restraint—particularly on my Facebook wall and even here.
I am probably best described as a radical conservative. I whole-heartedly believe the liberal progressive direction some would take us in is a damaging the Republic.

I am a veteran of the US Navy. I love my country. I spent six years of my life serving her in a military capacity. I am proud of that service—and grateful for the opportunity I had to do so.

But the truth is, nations rise and nations fall. There is a very real probability that this great nation will one day go the way of other great nations and civilizations before her. May that day be ever far off.

However, I have a more pressing agenda.

As such, I’d really rather Desperately Wanting To Believe Again be about things that matter more, long-term.
Like eternity.

Sharing with you my struggles helps me find the right eternal perspective and hopefully encourages others as well.

In the meantime, I have submitted my name for three different preaching jobs. Some days, I lack the confidence necessary to believe I am a viable candidate for any of them. Not looking for words of encouragement here, so please don’t think it necessary to try.

But, here’s why I sometimes struggle with the idea of preaching once more on a regular basis… There are moments when I am not sure where I fit in the theological framework of my tradition. The tragedy my family has faced fundamentally rewired my thinking.

I have long been willing to explore and rethink (or reimagine, as good friend Patrick Mead might say) the things that have defined my religious place before God. I have not been afraid to come to the same conclusion. I have not been afraid to come to a new conclusion. I have not been afraid to leave it (whatever it might be) in the realm of questions of which I have no sure or easy answers.

Please know I am not talking about the identity, divinity, or authority of God or even scripture. I am not talking about anything salvational in nature.

If the truth could be any stranger, it probably would be. Here’s mine: I am mostly neither left or right on the grand theological scale. The word moderate wouldn’t be a very good description either.

Maybe the best way to describe my positioning on the theological continuum is basic or fundamental.
A fundamental Christian. And by fundamental, I mean one who has no choice but to explore hard, deep questions of the soul.

My concern is so very less about this position or that stance. It isn’t about shaking the status quo. It isn’t about playing devil’s advocate. It isn’t about challenging old traditions. It isn’t about fostering new traditions. It’s not really about making people think or somehow wrestle with old or new viewpoints.

I am a basic, fundamental Christian who wrestles, struggles, questions, worries, fears, and wonders. I can’t afford, in this context, to be a political animal playing church politics of any kind. I don’t have room in my life for arguments and debate.

Once I might have, but now I am consumed with fundamental thoughts…
Does God really truly love me?
In the midst of the worst life has to offer, can God be trusted?
Does God really care?
Am I really important?
Does my life matter?

Can you see how those questions are so very fundamental? If I am going to love God and keep His commandments, if I am going to love others in a God-honoring way, then I need to know those answers in every permutation they can be known in.

I suspect I am not alone.

Churches are full of folks who need to hear someone who has been through a fire say with real life conviction: I may not have all of the theological answers about every possible question, but I can say, without any doubt at all, Jesus loves me, this I know.

I may rage at what feels like God’s absence.
I may not understand how He works in every situation.
I may not grasp where He is during every moment.
But Jesus loves me, this I know.

How’s that for a preaching philosophy?

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36, NIV)

Thanks for reading,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

23 thoughts on “A Philosophy of Preaching

      • He sounds Anglican because a lot of their clergy did not go from college to seminary to clergy while attending church every Sunday and always having a good life. A lot of them did not attend church from confirmation till middle age and even wondered if there is a G-d. Then they discovered there is and went back to seminary and are now in hand-carved pulpits reminding their congregants that they did not believe in or accept G-d for a long time, and that they understand why hurting people have doubt.

  1. Les, you are definitely progressing. Grief is a passage, not meant to be a permanent condition! It is a time of reevaluation and introspection. It can be a great maturing process that leads one to assess, deny, and affirm positions on many things. You are forced to clarify many positions and beliefs that were never previously questioned. There is strength and purpose from having been tried by horrible tragedy, and come through on the other side.

    With understanding and compassion, you will be able to provide a wonderful service to others who are enduring losses.This world needs you! I am so proud of you!

  2. Thanks for writing and sharing. If I could go back to preaching I don’t think I would, but were I to do so I believe I’d be a much better preacher/pastor.

  3. When I open my emails in the morning, I scroll down hoping to find “Desperately Wanting…” After reading today’s blog, I am thinking what a gift it would be for a congregation to have you as their regular preacher and to be able to hear lessons from you. Every blog you have written has touched me deeply and provoked thinking at a level not explored before. Challenging? Certainly; but always motivated by the human need for believing and having faith. You offer so much to those who have walked with God on a rather smooth path as well as those who have been plunged into total despair. I believe it will become abundantly clear to you and you will know where you need to be…
    Of course, I’d love to see you serving God and all of us in the U.S. Congress!!! Have a wonderful day!

  4. I have to agree with everyone here. I think the Church would benefit from preachers like you. I find myself sometimes wondering if people listen to me or our preacher and dismiss what we have to say when we speak on matters of trials and doubt and faith. To my knowledge our preacher hasn’t had anything tragic happen to him and neither have I, but we are ministers to a congregation with many people who have had life altering tragedies. I haven’t once wondered that about you, partially because you are very open and sincere and honest about where it is that you stand. That kind of honesty and transparency is needed in a bad way! I am trying to be more transparent and I think your blog is helping me and thus helping those I minister to. God bless you!

  5. “Some days, I lack the confidence necessary to believe I am a viable candidate for any of them.”

    Those seem to be the qualifications that many of us are looking for in a pastor. Many of us are not looking for a person who has the answers but one who has a good grasp on the questions.

    Look forward to hearing more about this journey Les.

    Blessings, Bob

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