Meet your developer
Hi, my name is Steven Hovater, and I’m glad you’re interested in Sermon Design. It’s been a fascinating process trying to build a tool that will not only be useful for me, but to my colleagues as well. I hope you like it, but even more, I hope it leads to ever more fruitful preaching in the Church. We know that ultimately it is God’s own Spirit that will bring the preaching of the word to fruition, but I hope and trust that God also uses the time and energy we use in honing our craft to transform the Church as well.
Much like sermons come from our own particular perspectives and we find ourselves woven into them, this app has a lot of my own assumptions and homiletical reflections built into it. It only seems fair to give you a heads up of where I’m coming from!
In terms of my faith, I’m a disciple of Jesus, who I celebrate as the Lord of creation.I believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and that his life, death, resurrection and ascension are good news to all of us. I believe that, in Jesus, God has been, is, and will be at work reconciling the world, so that one day it will again be as it was in the beginning—good, full of life, and free from death. We eagerly anticipate the realization of all of that—Come, Lord Jesus!—but in the meantime, the church joins Jesus in that work by the power of the Holy Spirit, and lives as new community, trying to live out the story of new creation in the world.
Personally, my family and I live in Tullahoma, Tennessee. My wonderful wife Kelly and I have four awesome kids—I never really thought of myself as a “big family” guy, but I suppose that’s where we are, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The little rascals are just fantastic. For what it’s worth, I keep a personal blog, although it’s admittedly been neglected while I was putting together this app. (and parenting, and preaching, and studying…something’s gotta give sometimes, my friends!) You’re welcome to check it out: www.StevenHovater.com. You can probably get a pretty good idea of what makes me tick by poking around the posts there. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, let’s have coffee.
More specifically relevant to the matters at hand, you might want to know that I’ve spent my life in the tradition of the “Churches of Christ”, which is a branch of what we call the American Restoration Movement that emerged out of the work of Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and others in the early 1800’s. We’re mostly a free church/congregationalist/anabaptist movement. Something like an Evangelical movement with a pacifist streak, although I’m afraid we’ve lost a bit of that in recent decades.
That said, I consider myself a pretty ecumenical person, which may surprise you if you’ve only encountered the more conservative branches of our fellowship. I think it’s becoming increasingly common among younger generations in our tradition to see themselves as part of a broader Christianity, though it hasn’t always been that way. I grew up going to CoC schools, and while I benefited from that education, I’ve also recently been a student in a Presbyterian Seminary, and have relished the opportunity to learn from and with disciples of Jesus in other branches of Christianity.
(“Homiletics” simply means theory of preaching, and is the discipline of studying whatever it is that we’re doing when we preach!)
I’ve tried to make Sermon Design flexible enough to be useful to a wide group of preachers, but there’s no denying that a lot of my own homiletic built into it. Some of that is perhaps unavoidable, because the very act of encoding a process entails certain methodological assumptions, and certainly in selecting forms and movement types, I’ve described the forms in my own language. Nonetheless, one of my goals over the next few months is to build in even greater flexibility, so that it will work even better for preachers from different homiletical starting points.
That said, my homiletic is based on a few principles:
- We preach the Word of God. Not only does that mean that the text of scripture is the source of our preaching, but also that as we preach, our sermons come to represent the word of God, perhaps even are the word of God in some sense, for the Church. As such, not only is the task important, but it is bounded by the will and intentions of God. Preaching begins with listening to God’s Word in scripture, and by discerning within it the Word of God for the people of today.
- Sermons should do something. As rhetoric, sermons should be trying to accomplish something in the real world. Perhaps they move, educate, or challenge the listeners, or create an experience of celebration or lament. Maybe they serve as forms of resistance to some form of evil or power, or perhaps they push against some sort of despair. Maybe they reveal something, bringing some reality out into the open. Whatever. But they shouldn’t be just about something. They should try to do something. Now, once you know what you’re trying to do, you have to figure out how to do it, and that’s where Sermon Design’s palette of forms and movements can really be helpful.
- Sermons should be immediate. What I mean by that is that even though they may be related to timeless, eternal truths, they should have some particularity to them. Good sermons exist as the Word of God from a particular preacher, to a particular congregation, in a particular time. There are a lot of implications of this one. For instance, we’re always listening, always starting fresh, because the sermon exists in a specific now. Also, preaching requires the preacher to be authentic—if you’re pretending to be a different person than you really are, you’re missing the mark, because that sermon doesn’t come from the real you. And most seriously, if you’re putting words in the mouth of God that are really just you’re words, well…that’s bad, too. I’m not saying it’s easy to avoid, just that it’s not good.
If you’ve found issues with Sermon Design, or any other feedback, the best thing to do is email me at steven[at]sermondesign[dot]com.