I’m taking a seminary class on Homiletics (which is just a fancy way of saying “How to give a sermon”). In my textbook, one of the paragraphs really struck a chord with me, and my thoughts were much longer than a Facebook post should ever be:
A preacher who wants to infuse his sermons with freshness
and vigor must also see to it that his discussion contains
variety. He will not draw all his quotations from
Shakespeare or all his illustrations from his own children.
He will take pains to gather his material from every
available source, new and old, and use them wherever they
may be effectively applied. While he must aim for variety,
at the same time a preacher must make sure that the
material he uses holds human interest. Anecdotes and
factual material that relate to the circumstances men and
women find themselves in or that appeal to human emotions
and sympathies are certain to arouse attention. But the
preacher does not have to tell sob stories just to make
people weep. Instead, whatever material he brings into
the discussion should connect with people’s hearts.
– James Braga
I think this is one of the advantages for me as a missionary to having a Ukrainian wife, speaking Ukrainian, and really living among the people. I get to experience the culture in Ukraine and allow myself to become Ukrainian.
On the other hand, I’ve taught and heard sermons delivered that used examples from films that many Ukrainians have never watched or English songs they may or may not fully understand, and the preacher has to take 3-4 minutes of time to explain his own illustration… which takes away the purpose of an illustration. I also don’t think this is a pitfall that only applies to missionaries – we as American teachers can also lose our hearers to illustrations that make no sense to them. Describing the beauty of a ballet and its intricacies may be completely a lost cause at a biker church (or it may not!), or describing the passion of a metal concert will only get you cross looks at some Baptist churches.
Like Paul said, we need to “be all things to all people” as pastors, as teachers, and as Christians in general.