Speaking with Kara Martin
I love getting the opportunity to hear people preach. I am also curious about how different people prepare sermons. So with that in mind here are some questions I asked Kara.
Can you think of a sermon that had a significant impact on you? Why has it stayed with you?
I can think of three in particular. One was by the classic Aussie evangelist John ‘Chappo’ Chapman. I remember him saying how he hated it when people only talk to you when they need something, but then pointed out that’s often how we treat God. It stayed with me because Chappo showed me the rhetorical device of sucking the audience in: “Yeah, I hate it when people only contact me when they want something…” and then (bang!) “That’s how I treat God.”
Rhys Bezzant, a fellow lecturer at Ridley, did a wonderful dramatic monologue from the perspective of Philemon responding to Paul’s letter about his ex-slave Onesimus. Rhys showed me how deeply careful biblical teaching can be delivered in a creative method that makes the message compelling. And two weeks ago, Dave Hanbury, my pastor from Harbourside Baptist told a vulnerable story of how he did something ostensibly for another, but expected some reward. Dave showed me that as a preacher I need to guard against having a persona as a holy person; that being authentic about our humanity is really important. As a pew-sitter it made it easier to admit that I do that too, rather than being defensive.
What was your process preparing to preach at Seaforth?
I think it is important to understand the context: what is the series, what are people learning? Who is the audience: what are their joys and challenges? Then I think of the topic I’ve been asked to deliver. Since it’s something familiar, there is a danger of focusing on the content I’m giving, but I need to be prayerful, and seeking God. The focus is NOT on what I want to say, but on what God prompts me to speak because it’s what the audience needs to hear.
Do you think sermons still have a role in a church’s worship gathering? Why/why not?
This is a tough one to ask of someone who is an itinerant preacher! No… and yes! It seems the Bible encourages gathering for hearing from the Word, praying and singing. However, the focus is never on the preacher. I do feel that the way the sermon has developed in churches through the centuries means it is a unique form of communication. As a preacher, I feel a responsibility to prayerfully bring a message to the church that faithfully represents the Bible, is engaging, and has the possibility of influencing behaviour. I am often stunned when people hear something from a sermon that I never intended to say; but that is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is at work as well, convicting the hearts of the listeners.