In this odd world of ministry without church that I now inhabit, I don't preach or speak publicly much anymore. Sometimes I miss it, most times I don't. I don't miss staying up late on Saturdays trying to figure out if I've got it straight, and I don't miss getting up a few hours later on a Sunday morning to completely rewrite everything because it just doesn't sit right in my head. I never envied those folk who had Wednesday as sermon preparation day and seemed to be able to sit down at the desk and turn out the finished article by the end of a single day's work. For me, sermon preparation was a week long process of walking with the text, exploring it from a range of angles, reflecting on its context and generally letting is all coalesce in my head. Mind maps and sketchy notes were my route to a Sunday presentation.
So it's rather odd to be in a place where I don't have to do that on a regulars basis.
But this weekend I am preaching. Now I know that I've been asked because all the main stays of the church are at the BU Assembly. I also know that it's almost a racing certainty that it will be a one off invitation. So I could go in with the attitude of nothing to lose, but that would seem to be a somewhat arrogant approach. The truth is that I still believe that the local church is the hope of the world as Bill Hybels would say. And yes, I know it's the message that carries the hope, but the church remains God's chosen vehicle.
Having said that, it would be unwise to assume that the church as it presents itself in our times is somehow sacred to the purposes of God. We ought to remember the salutary lesson of those who believed Jerusalem could not possibly fall because it was God's chosen city.
So I will preach, and I won't go out of my way to upset or alienate anyone, but I won't hold back either in presenting a challenge to change. We shall see how it goes!