Preaching to People in Pain
How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation
This book offers an important corrective to a pain-averse culture that celebrates individualism and success, encouraging pastors to preach on the painful issues their congregations face. Preacher and teacher Matthew Kim has witnessed the weekly struggles of broken parishioners and has worked to make sense of his own pain as a follower of Jesus. In this book, he encourages preachers not to avoid preaching on afflictions. Rather, he emboldens pastors, whenever appropriate, to connect the pain in Scripture passages with the pain of their listeners. Through vulnerability and self-disclosure, says Kim, pastors can help their congregants share their suffering in community for the purpose of healing and transformation.
Preaching to People in Pain asks preachers to consider nine questions that will help them move from hermeneutics to homiletics as they prepare, write, and preach sermons on pain and suffering. The book includes stories, shares relevant Scripture texts imparting biblical wisdom, and offers best practices for preaching on specific topics. Each chapter ends with discussion questions and a sample sermon.
Part 1: Naming the Pain
1. The Preacher's Pain
2. The Listeners' Pain
3. A Plan for Preaching on Pain
Part 2: Preaching on Pain
4. Painful Decisions
"The Anatomy of a Bad Decision" (Sermon on 1 Samuel 15)
5. Painful Finances
"The Secret to Contentment" (Sermon on Philippians 4:10-20)
6. Painful Health Issues
"Panhandling for True Satisfaction" (Sermon on Acts 3:1-10)
7. Painful Losses
"Successful Suffering" (Sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:3-11)
8. Painful Relationships
"Honoring Mom as Honoring God" (Sermon on Ruth 1-4)
9. Painful Sins
"The God of Fourth Chances" (Sermon on John 21:15-25)
Appendix: Worksheet for Understanding Pain
"Our congregations need not only truthful exegesis and engaging preaching but also emotional discipleship. Each week, the people in our pews carry with them loss, grief, and suffering, and they long for a way to meet God in the midst of their struggles. When sermons focus only on the victory of the Christian life, this makes walking the way of Jesus more difficult for those who are in pain. Kim helps those of us who preach to address various types of suffering with wisdom, compassion, and the hope of Christ. He helps us take up the holy responsibility of proclaiming that every part of our lives--including our sorrow and pain--is something that we address as a church and is, more importantly, a place to encounter God."
Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest; author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night
"Matthew Kim is a battle-scarred, veteran pastor familiar with suffering and a master teacher of preaching. His perceptive, poignant book will pluck up your courage and inspire you to preach powerful sermons that birth hope in the lives of people who suffer."
Ken Shigematsu, pastor, Tenth Church, Vancouver, British Columbia; author of Survival Guide for the Soul
"Matthew D. Kim, an experienced pastor, preacher, and teacher of preaching, has written an insightful and beautifully instructive book on preaching to people who experience pain--on all sorts of levels. Kim deftly demonstrates the preacher's responsibility to understand his or her own personal pain and the pain of his or her listeners. As a result, the preacher is enabled to empathize with them and out of her own pain preach the hope of the Scriptures to them. Preaching to People in Pain is an important contribution to pastoral ministry, to preaching, and to the field of homiletics. Kim is to be commended for addressing this tender and fragile but often overlooked aspect of the preaching task."
Scott M. Gibson, professor of preaching, David E. Garland Chair of Preaching, and director of the PhD program in preaching, Truett Seminary, Baylor University
"Preaching to People in Pain could also be called Preaching to Humans. In a culture which makes us believe something is wrong with us when we experience suffering, preachers have a choice: to provide shallow promises or to trust in the truth of our story--that resurrection only comes after death. With wisdom and courage Matthew Kim invites preachers to name their own pain for the sake of their own health and the health of their congregations. We're presented with the hopeful possibility that together we have the capacity for the challenges of life and that as we face them, we find the truth of our story in solidarity with our suffering (and resurrected) Lord."
Mandy Smith, pastor and author of The Vulnerable Pastor and Unfettered: Imagining a Childlike Faith beyond the Baggage of Western Culture
"Frederick Buechner famously wrote that the preacher should not be like the captain of a ship 'who is the only one aboard who . . . does not know that the waves are twenty feet high.' Preaching to pain clearly indicates that we understand that there are waves. Confessing our own pain as part of that process indicates that we have had to navigate the waves too. Matthew Kim addresses the waves and rides them with his readers to teach us all how to navigate life's storms by the light of our Savior's heart."
Bryan Chapell, pastor emeritus, Grace Presbyterian Church; president emeritus, Covenant Seminary; author of Christ-Centered Preaching
Christianity Today 2022 Book Award Winner (Church/Pastoral Leadership)
Southwestern Journal of Theology 2021 Book of the Year Award (Honorable Mention, Preaching/Ministry/Leadership)
"As a preacher, I found this book an invaluable and timely resource. Oftentimes, people sitting in our churches are suffering immensely from different hardships and challenges. Kim's book will help preachers offer words of hope and empathy for suffering saints. He gives readers insights on different types of pain, a plan for preaching on pain, sample sermons, a brief theological overview on suffering, and personal stories that grip the heart."
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