Rochelle Owusu-Antwi, Communications Manager at LWPT caught up with Freddie Ingle, a preacher from London. His submission will feature in the SOTY book of sermons. Read his thoughts below:
R: Freddie why did you decide to enter Sermon of the Year 2018?
F: As a fairly new and quite a young preacher I try to take every opportunity to hone my craft where possible. In fact, the last piece of advice I received from my lead pastor was: “Do as much preaching as you can” and it was about a week after that that I saw this competition and I thought that would be an excellent opportunity and a great chance to dive into a really significant aspect of the gospel which is that freedom and at the same time write something while forcing to be concise. So I thought it was a great skills challenge and honestly that was all I expected from it: I was expecting to get anywhere or to do anything. I just thought this was a good opportunity to hone my craft and if I’m very fortunate maybe get some feedback. But that was my main reason for entering.
R: What would you describe as the key things you’ve learned from submitting a sermon and going through the experience?
F: It was a really interesting and unique process because it was the first time I’d ever prepared a sermon to not then preach it because I’m used to only writing a sermon for the purpose of preaching it. And it’s also the first time I’ve not been preparing something to give to the congregation at my home church or a congregation I’m at least informed about before going there: so for example if I’m preaching to a Christian Union at a university I can get something out of that. Submitting a sermon forced me to look at style and jargon and to try to strip away as many assumptions as possible which I think is something preachers in general would massively benefit from doing. The most helpful thing was thinking I have an audience of no one but at the same time I have an audience of everyone so I needed to be able to strip back all layers of assumptions, jargon and preconception. That was the most important thing I learned.
The second thing is being forced to be concise and having a word limit. I come from the kind of church where they expect people to ramble a little bit in preaching. We allocate a decent amount of time for preaching and if people go over that’s kind of fine. And I don’t think that necessarily a helpful thing for a lot of new preachers: I think being concise is a really useful but difficult skill.
Thirdly it encourages you to think about writing for a different medium because you’re writing a sermon that you’re not necessarily expected to give and therefore I was writing stylistically different. And you know writing in a way that might be more beneficial in a blog or in a piece of content online or wherever; it was a really helpful thing to be thinking about. I suppose what I’m trying to say is it broke some of my habits as it forced me to write and prepare in a different way. It also forced me to rely on God in a different way to what I’m used to because previously whenever I’ve preached, the main prayer has been God help me serve the people I’m writing this for but the nature of the competition is that I’m writing it for myself and I don’t really want to, so I had to think about that and think to myself what do I want God to do with this and in what sense is this an offering that is going to glorify him rather than myself? Because if it’s only going to glorify myself then why am I doing it? The competition also made me think why do I want to preach and why do I like preaching in the first place and I think this unique competition forces you to evaluate so much of yourself which I think is a really beneficial thing particularly for young preachers.
R: How was it finding out you were one of the top ten entries?
F: The word incredulous is the word I’d use. I genuinely, legitimately didn’t believe I’d be shortlisted: I was confused slightly and sort of tried to think of reasons how it could have possibly happened. I had to just assume there was an unusually low calibre of entrants. So initially that was my reaction and upon realising that this was actually happening I was elated really. It was a real encouragement for me as preaching is a primary calling and it was encouraging for me to know that despite the few sermons I’ve preached that perhaps there is something there and God has given me a gifting there. The two main things I’d sum up my feelings on being selected are confusion and encouragement.
R: Why do you think it is important that a competition such as Sermon of the Year exists?
F: Sermon of the Year promotes preaching which is not just important but it’s crucial. I think everybody preaches something, whether you’re a Christian or non-believing and I think preaching is hugely significant. We’re in the middle of the greatest communications revolution since the invention of the printing press really and one of the things that came out of that was the significance of the written word but also preaching and people being able to write their sermons down and sending those across. If people are devoting themselves to preaching it will make an enormous difference: I honestly think it will change lives which will then change cities which will then change countries and therefore change the world. Preaching is not the only thing that does that but it’s a crucial part of that change. Things like Sermon of the Year promotes preaching and encourage people who maybe don’t get opportunities to preach to be able to. I noticed that last year the winner had never preached a sermon before in her life and the competition gave her opportunity to that. Because church is difficult to sometimes give people the opportunity: this gives people an opportunity that might not preach much or may have never even thought about it before. It just gives them a chance to go: ‘well hang on I have got a message and a gifting here’. Which is great because the more preachers, the better.
R: What advice would you give to someone contemplating entering Sermon of the year in future?
F: You will lose nothing by doing it. I think if you’re someone who considers yourself a preacher I think the challenges that I talked about earlier make it worth it. If you’re someone who doesn’t consider themselves a preacher, this is a great opportunity to see and find out if you can. I sort of suspect that the majority of people that will hear about this type of competition will have a tertiary interest in preaching by nature of the [Preach] magazine and indeed LST. So you have nothing to lose and it could be a significant experience for you to enter and could really help you to unlock a gift.
Book your free tickets to this year's Sermon of the Year finals HERE.