I recently came across a book titled: Kindling Desire for God: Preaching as Spiritual Direction by Kay Bessler Northcutt. It was published in January of 2009. I have been doing a lot of reading in the area of spiritual direction and spiritual disciplines lately, and when I came across this title it immediately jumped out at me and screamed, "read me!" So, I did.
What followed from my reading was a deeply profound synergy between two things that I love. Preaching and Spiritual Direction. The author weaved these two areas of church ministry together in a flawless and beautiful tapestry of theology and practice. One of the most influential ideas that I came away with was the creative approach to preaching that sees the sermon as the content of a conversation between the preacher and the Spirit. The congregation is then given the opportunity to participate in the listening aspect of spiritual direction by listening through the sermon for the voice of the Spirit that the preacher (as spiritual guide) has already taken time to pay attention to. Often, I find that preaching is reduced to information relay, where the preacher is informing the congregation about what is going on in the text, and attempting to apply it to their lives. Preaching as Spiritual Direction reminds the pastor and guides the pastor in a process of attentive writing. What they write and deliver should be the combination of both rigorous study and prayerful spiritual discipline. When these two things combine the congregation has the opportunity to participate in a communal spiritual direction session. What a beautiful, creative and life-giving way of thinking about preaching!