Leading with the Sermon: Preaching as Leadership
William H. Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School and retired United Methodist Church bishop, has written a new book describing how Christian preaching may be the most important activity of pastors in leading a congregation.
The book, Leading with the Sermon: Preaching as Leadership, was published by Fortress Press and is part of the Working Preacher Books series. The volume arises from Willimon’s teaching in the Doctor of Ministry degree program, which he also directs at the Divinity School. A prolific and internationally known author, he has published more than 70 books with more than a million copies sold.
In this new book, Willimon makes the compelling case that two key pastoral tasks ─ preaching and leadership ─ complement, correct, strengthen, and inform one another. Since preaching is the distinctive function of pastoral leaders, he argues that leadership of the church, particularly during this challenging time of transition in mainline Protestantism, has become a pressing concern for pastors.
Leading with the Sermon demonstrates how the practices, skills, and intentions of Christian preaching can be helpful to the leadership of a congregation. It also shows how leadership is an appropriate expectation for sermons. In preaching, pastoral leaders can help a congregation face its problems and coordinate its God-given resources to address those problems, Willimon says. Sermons can be an opportunity to articulate, motivate, and orchestrate God’s people in doing God's work in the church and in the world.
"My aim is to show how preaching aids and shapes our leadership and how our leadership provides the context, purposes, and test of our preaching,” says Willimon, adding that the book is based on guides in the fields of leadership and preaching, his experience over four decades of pastoral leadership, and as a seminary professor who has prepared hundreds of pastors.
The book includes chapters on why pastors must be leaders, why preaching is such an essential task in telling the truth about the gospel, how preaching makes better leaders, and how better leaders make better preachers.
Prior to Willimon’s current position, he served for 20 years as a faculty member at Duke Divinity School and as dean of Duke Chapel at Duke University. He also is a retired bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the UMC.
Willimon’s most recent books are Stories by Willimon, published by Abingdon Press also this year, and his 2019 memoir, Accidental Preacher. He also writes Pulpit Resource, a weekly preaching subscription service used by thousands in several countries. His articles have appeared in many publications including The Christian Ministry, Quarterly Review, Liturgy, Worship, and Christianity Today. In addition, Willimon was selected in a Baylor University survey as one of the “Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World.”