Tonight kicked off the Festival of Spiritual Formation 2014 Event and part of my emcee duties was to introduce Steve DeNeff.

My intro was, let’s say: unconventional. Maybe even risky.

Here is my script from the intro. What’s your take on this?

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I have a secret to reveal to you today: I don’t prefer the preaching of Steve DeNeff.

If you were to ask me to make a list of my ten favorite preachers, he wouldn’t make the cut. He wouldn’t make the top 100 preachers that I prefer in fact. However, I was his executive pastor for 5 years, and as all staff people learn: you can’t make the lead pastor preach like you want him or her to.

Here’s why I don’t prefer his preaching:

  • I prefer evangelistic preachers speaking primarily for the unchurched. But Steve is a “holiness preacher” primarily intending to convert Christians.
  • I prefer to not hear nearly heretical teaching in sermons. But Steve pushes me to view a time tested text with far out and challenging interpretations that make me uncomfortable.
  • I prefer seeker-sensitive preaching. But sometimes I think Steve wants seekers to almost feel uncomfortable in church, and to get saved outside of church and only come once they are ready, or if they come to church, to respectfully observe a “family conversation” at worship
  • I prefer preachers with brevity, repetition of key thoughts, all within a branded series. But Steve will abandon a series concept if the text takes him there, he never repeats himself, so I miss much, and he preaches in one sermon more content than many publish in an entire book and longer than some seats can endure.
  • I prefer a preacher that hits at my felt needs. But he pushes into my unfelt needs. And that is the point…

Steve is over there now thinking: “Now Dave, you know that an introduction of a speaker is supposed to include some praise, right?”

I don’t know if this counts as praise, but here is the truth:

  • Steve gets the spiritually forming nature of a sermon, that it is there to push the hearer forward, not pat them on the back where they sit. He gets the limited but critical place preaching has in spiritual formation. It is not there to do what groups, classes, conversations, or sacraments do. It is there to be prophetic.
  • [quote_left]What I want is not usually what I really need.[/quote_left]I’ve told you what I prefer, but what I want is not usually what I really need. And what I need, and perhaps what our world needs, is more prophets. We’ve got plenty of priests. We’ve got plenty of would-be kings. We have a shortage of prophets.
  • I want milkshakes sermons that go down smooth and easy. Steve serves me sermon steaks with no utensils. You have to pick them up with your bare hands and chew these messages with your bare spiritual teeth, and he doesn’t even take the bones out. I’m guessing he thinks deboning the meat of a message is for preaching wusses and for milkshake craving crowds.

I no longer work for Steve, but I still choose to sit under the authority of his preaching every week I’m not out on the road preaching myself. Why?

  • Steve knows that I want cohesive branding but I need scriptural dissonance.
  • I want clarity but I need the realistic complexity of Scriptural Truths and Creedal Confessions.
  • I am comfortable with and want evangelistic sermons for others, but I need discipleship for myself, which includes being a better evangelist myself.
  • I want encouragement but I need to be provoked.
  • I want a priestly touch, but I need a prophetic word.

So for all of those reasons I want to introduce to you a person who has spiritually formed me immensely even when I didn’t want him to through his preaching. I want to introduce to you the lead pastor of College Church, author of many seminal books, including one we wrote together (he brought the seminal parts, I brought the jokes), and a frequent speaker at conferences, camps, and events around North America. He is a preacher I don’t prefer, but for me and likely many of you, he is a bit of a prophet… So I introduce to you the prophet I don’t want but absolutely need, Rev. Dr. Steve DeNeff.

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