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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Excerpt from Preaching with Empathy: Crafting Sermons in a Callous Culture

Some of you have asked for an excerpt. Here is a snippet from the introduction:

Seminary taught many of us important skills for preaching. We were shown how to exegete a biblical text by probing the literary, historical, and theological contexts. Next in the curricular lineup was the art of rhetoric. Various linear and narrative sermon forms were critiqued or commended. Then we were thrown into a somewhat sterile preaching lab where we tried our best to impress our peers and professor with voice fluctuation, gesture variety, and, of course, eye contact. Seminary professors hoped that students, in the process of learning how to preach, would develop a deep love for God, scripture, and preaching. I suspect most of us did.

There is another love necessary for preaching to reach its full potential for societal transformation—love for those to whom we preach. It’s not enough to get the biblical text, sermon form, and delivery right; the preacher must also get the listeners “right.” If not, the preacher will “prepare generic sermons for generic humanity that never truly become enfleshed in the real-life situations of particular congregations.”

Enter empathy. Empathy gives preachers the capacity, the grace really, to slip their feet into the shoes of their congregants so that they think and feel what their people think and feel. Empathy can make mediocre preaching better, and good preaching great. Without empathy, preachers cannot begin to fully know and love the people to whom they preach. Furthermore, the preacher who lacks empathy will have only a partial view of the God in whose image listeners are made. Empathy that is rooted in and compelled by the trinitarian God has the power to create a revolution in the pulpit and pew that ripples to the ends of the earth.

Simon Baron-Cohen writes, “Empathy itself is the most valuable resource in our world. . . . Given this assertion, it is puzzling that . . . it is rarely, if ever, on the agenda.” If you feel nobody is listening to, or being transformed by, your preaching, I can relate. Maybe your problem has little to do with exegesis or delivery and a lot to do with empathy.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Endorsements for Preaching with Empathy: Crafting Sermons in a Callous Culture

I am deeply humbled by the kind endorsements Preaching with Empathy has received from some of the most thoughtful homileticians, leaders, and preachers around. If the book has impact it will be, in large part, because of their support. Please pray with me, that God would use this book to cultivate the empathy of "Christ in us, the hope of glory." 

“The best preachers have a heartfelt concern for the listening congregation as they prepare their sermons. The tone and tenor of this empathic sensibility can be honed and sharpened. In Preaching with Empathy, Lenny Luchetti shows us how to accomplish this task.”
—Cleophus J. LaRue Jr., Francis Landey Patton Professor of Homiletics, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ

“Luchetti gets specific in his analysis of how empathy fosters intimacy between pulpit and pew and motivates listener response. And he gets practical in his exploration of the obstacles to empathy and his strategies for cultivating it. Preaching with Empathy is a welcome addition to the homiletical literature and a useful resource for both new and seasoned preachers.”
—Alyce McKenzie, Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship; Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor; director, The Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

“As preachers we can become so immersed in the text, so consumed with a creative idea in delivery or illustration, or so captivated with a message delivered by another that we unintentionally miss profoundly connecting with those receiving the message. Empathy is a bridge between God’s living and active word and the deepest longings of those who listen. Preaching with Empathy equips us to build that bridge.”
—Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church, Indianapolis, IN

“Lenny Luchetti has provided a new approach to an old problem, but one not frequently associated with preaching. That is the problem—and necessity—of empathy in the pulpit. Luchetti gives to preachers a practical and theological framework against which we may measure our preaching, our ministry, and our own hearts. This is a valuable book for us all.”
—Richard Lischer, James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC; author, The End of Words and Stations of the Heart

“Do not read the title and think this is only for preachers. Empathy has become a lost ingredient of our culture, and this book speaks to what has been lost. In addition, the science, theology, sociology, and biblical depth of the subject of empathy is explored.This phrase jumped off the page to me: ‘We are wired for empathy created in God’s Image’—powerful words of hope. At the same time, Dr. Luchetti gives practical and specific methods in which a preacher may increase empathy by drawing upon models of the past and current exercises. This book should be at the top of one’s reading list and, of course, especially for preachers. Compelling and inspiring for times like these!”
—Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador, General Superintendent, Emerita,
The Wesleyan Church, Indianapolis, IN

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Colonialism, Compromise, or Contextualization?

Many pastors on the front lines of ministry wrestle with how to preach the Gospel in a post-Christian, biblically-illiterate culture. How do we preach in ways that are faithful to scripture and fitting to culture? How can we preachers listen attentively to the voice of God through scripture and to the hopes of humanity in culture without ignoring either? Preachers can learn from the failures and successes of missionaries. Here are three possible postures when it comes to relating Christ to culture.

Colonialism: Early American missionaries often took on a posture of colonialism. When they went into a new culture to share the Gospel, they imposed their particular cultural norms and values on the culture they were trying to reach and, often subconsciously, considered it “gospel.” They sought to bring the truth of God into pagan cultures without much consideration of how to share Christ in ways that related to the particular culture they were trying to reach. When preachers develop and deliver sermons that are biblically substantive but culturally irrelevant, we are guilty of colonialism. Think about your sermon preparation process. Surely you devote many hours to exegeting a biblical text, but how much time do you expend exegeting the culture of people to whom you will preach? Do you devote space in your homiletic process for listening to listeners, inviting them to offer questions, observations, input, and evaluation concerning your preaching? If not, you may be a Colonialist Preacher.

Compromise: A more recent trend among missionaries is to run so far from the sin of colonialism that they run smack-dab into the sin of compromise. This approach to missions involves a syncretizing of the Gospel with the norms and values of a culture, even those norms and values that are clearly contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel becomes so enculturated that it loses its counter-cultural power and simply endorses everything about the culture. This has happened in America. Sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing between what is Christian and what is cultural. Some of our ecclesial practices are more in alignment with American conceptions than Biblical convictions. When preachers develop and deliver sermons that are culturally relevant but biblically shallow, we compromise the Gospel. If our only goal in preaching is to come across as relevant, hip, and cool, in order to connect with and entertain culture, we compromise. If our preaching is always an endorsement of culture with no prophetic word from the Lord that confronts culture from time to time, chances are we are compromising. If we stand up to preach with a clever opening story and humorous conclusion but no substantive word from the Lord, we become shallow compromisers.

Contextualization: There is, thankfully, a third way. When missionary movements are at their best, they avoid colonialism and compromise in order to contextualize the Gospel. Missionaries who are committed to contextualization, live among and listen to the culture they are trying to reach. They spend time reflecting on the beliefs and behaviors of a culture. Then, they consider how to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that both commend and confront that culture. When preachers develop and deliver sermons that are biblically substantive and culturally relevant, we hit the bull’s eye of contextualization and avoid the mistakes of colonialism and compromise. This starts with the sermon preparation process. Devoting time to listen for the will and way of God through scripture AND to listen for the hopes and hurts of people in the preaching context is the prerequisite for contextual preaching. Then it’s time to put words together that bring these two lost lovers, God and humanity, together through the sermon. The preacher is a prophet who must faithfully proclaim a holy God to humanity (substance). But the preacher is also a priest who must fittingly proclaim the hopes and hurts of humanity to a holy God (relevance). When the contextual preacher preaches those who listen sense “this preacher knows God and this preacher gets me.”

Questions to Consider:
-Would the people who listen to your preaching consider you a colonialist, compromiser, or contextualist?

-When it comes to your sermon preparation process, are you most tempted to ignore the dynamics of the cultural context in which you preach (irrelevant colonialist) or the literary, historical, and theological contexts of the biblical text (shallow compromiser)? I’ve been guilty of both.

-What practices can you employ in your process of developing and delivering sermons that will enable you to preach in ways that are contextual, that are both biblically substantive AND culturally relevant?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Preaching Coach Ministry

Preaching is like golf. You don’t improve accidentally but intentionally.

Every preacher can benefit from someone who helps them discover or recover their unique, God-given voice for preaching.

We need someone to point out strengths we don’t even realize we have and explore ways to best use them. Of course, we also want someone who can guide us in pinpointing and overcoming deficiencies so we connect at a deeper level with listeners.

An effective preaching coach can help you maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses in your quest to proclaim Christ to a hope-hungry world.

Thanks to the prompting of God and friends, I've developed a four month preaching coach process designed to offer constructive feedback about your preaching and tools to maximize your gifts.
During the process, four of your sermons will be analyzed and evaluated for strengths and improvements. You will meet with your coach 2-3 times (via Skype if necessary) to work through preaching prescriptions.
Finally, you will develop an Annual Preacher Growth Plan.

For more information, send me an email at:

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Coming Soon- Preaching with Empathy: Crafting Sermons in a Callous Culture

Table of Contents
Part 1: Surveying the Land
Chapter 1: A Culture of Apathy
Chapter 2: A Case for Homiletic Empathy
Part 2: Pouring the Foundation
Chapter 3: Empathic God
Chapter 4: Exemplars of Empathic Preaching
Part 3: Framing the House
Chapter 5: Practices for Cultivating Empathy in Preachers
            Chapter 6: Practices for Infusing Empathy in Preaching

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Unexpected Annoyances for the Preacher

Audio-visual glitches, member outbursts, a fainting bridesmaid, and a light fixture fire are just a few of the surprises that may surface during the sermon. My goal in this chapter is to simply highlight some of the surprises you might run into so that they are no longer surprises. Some of these unexpected and unwanted occurrences cannot be avoided, no matter how hard we try. Yet if we know what might happen during the preaching event the shock is minimized and we can plan, in advance, how to respond in appropriate ways. 


            Fire station alarms and police car sirens, crying babies and cell phones, pouring rain and talkative teenagers, intoxicated sleepers and a loud motorcycle are just a few of the annoyances I have endured during the preaching event. Some of these are unavoidable. Do your best to keep preaching over the noise outside and inside of the church. You will probably have to raise your voice a bit until the police car goes by or the baby stops crying. Address the problem of talkative teenagers with gentleness and tact, but not during your sermon. Remind people before the service begins to silence their cell phones. Remember that people are watching the sermon you live, perhaps more intently than they are listening to the sermon you speak. No matter what surprise surfaces, be sure to respond to the annoyance with grace and composure. When the time is right, address those annoyances you can alleviate.   


            What do you do when a guy raises his hand in the middle of your sermon and, even though you managed to ignore him for ten minutes, refuses to put his hand down? Do you call on him or not? Well, I called on him and my preaching momentum, it seemed to me, was lost.

            On another occasion a young man I will call the “preach it” guy showed up. I enjoy some verbal response to the sermon but this guy was downright distracting. He sat in the second row and no matter what I said, every two or three minutes he would yell out with a screechy voice, “preach it.” Many in the congregation were distracted and, along with me, on the verge of laughter for most of the sermon. It probably didn’t help that the assistant pastor was sitting right behind the “preach it” guy, laughing his head off. There is nothing we can do about these outbursts. Developing a hospitable church culture that is welcome to all may even contribute to some of these outbursts. But it’s worth it. Preachers must learn to “ride out” these outbursts without blowing our lids. Someday we may look back upon these moments as fond preaching memories like I’m doing here.   

Audio-visual glitches

            In one of the churches I served we experienced audio-visual glitches just about every week. Videos wouldn’t play at all, or we would hear the sound without seeing the video, or see the video without hearing the sound. This drove me crazy. When these videos were intended to be enhancers of my sermon, I was especially frustrated. If the video didn’t play properly or the microphone would snap, crackle, and pop loudly I would say something humorous to reduce embarrassment for our technical people, but inside I was fuming.

            In order to avoid some of these glitches find and train qualified people to run your church’s audio-visual ministry. Make the financial investment in quality hardware and software. Until you acquire capable personnel and equipment, don’t attempt to be overly clever or frequent with your use of technology. In my opinion, it’s better to use plain old fashioned words to paint the sermon’s picture than audio-visual technology that may or may not work. 

Health problems

            Be prepared for someone in the wedding party to faint, an attendee to have a heart attack, or a kid to have an epileptic seizure. Most of us encounter these health scenarios at some point in our preaching tenure. It is very difficult to finish the sermon under these kinds of circumstances. Regardless of the severity of the situation and the size of the church, you will want to finish the sermon, perhaps with some modifications to the sermon’s tone and length. You can prepare for these surprises by helping the church establish a detailed plan to respond to health crises. Also, when someone in the congregation becomes publically ill during the service be sure to pause the sermon and lead the congregation in praying for this person. 

Building issues

            As I stepped up to preach the sermon, I noticed one of the light fixtures in the ceiling was on fire. Someone called the fire company and I invited everyone to grab a folding chair and head outside for the sermon. The weather was great. With the fire truck in the background, I preached in the open air. It was fun. There are other building issues that don’t have such a happy ending. When the air conditioner breaks in the heat of summer, you can expect people to fidget, fan, or fall asleep during the sermon. You want to keep the sermons shorter than usual until the air conditioner gets fixed.

            Another building issue you may encounter is a power outage. This is the perfect time for a prayer meeting and the sacrament of Communion, both of which rely on spiritual, not electrical, power. The point is, be willing to adapt to whatever surprises may surface during the service and be sure to demonstrate a high level of patience, grace, and calm. 


            1. Recall some surprises you have encountered in life and ministry. What tends to be your knee-jerk response to surprises? How can you respond to future surprises with grace and assertiveness, resisting the temptation to be either passive or aggressive?

2. Reflect on which category of surprises above is most typical or likely in your ministry
context. Develop a plan now to respond to those surprises when they surface again.