Dan Meyer-Abbott: “We’ve gotten very good at talking at each other and looking past each other.”
1242 Heber Street, Jacumba, CA
Pastor: Dan Meyer-Abbott
Formation: San Diego State University, San Diego; Claremont School of Theology, Claremont
Ordained: 34 years
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Dan Meyer-Abbott: At this stage, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. It probably takes me two hours, from start to finish, to get it all done, but that’s after a lot of years of working at writing sermons on a weekly basis.
SDR: What have you learned about writing more effective sermons?
PM-A: I will say this, I’m probably not like most when it comes to sermons. My sermons are probably ten minutes, max. One of the best pieces of advice I got was from my preaching professor at seminary who said you don’t have to put everything into one sermon. Another piece of advice I got from a church growth expert who used a baseball analogy. He said that you should “look for singles — you don’t always have to hit triples and home runs. Save those for the big holidays.”
SDR: Can you think of a time when you gave a sermon that completely flopped?
PM-A: I would say that would almost be true for every sermon I give [laughs]. That said, early on, I remember preaching at a church and, boy, I thought I was doing really well! — until afterwards my wife looked at me and said, “Boring.” I looked back at what I had done that day and realized I’d done what my preaching professor warned against — I’d stayed in the clouds and never came down. I didn’t have what he called a “for example.” Without one of these, he said, “you aren’t really preaching — you aren’t reaching them where they are and speaking to what is actually happening in people’s lives.” I learned quickly to include “for examples” in my sermons.
SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PM-A: Right now my main concern is the deep divide not only in the world but also in the U.S. between ideologies. We’ve really lost the ability to talk with each other. We’ve gotten very good at talking at each other, yelling at each other, and looking past each other, but we’ve really lost the art to compromise and listen to what the other person is saying. As I look at the New Testament, a lot of the words I find in it suggest the role of the Christian as a mediator; that is, as one who stands between two forces and mediates. I take on that role seriously when I do what I’m doing.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PM-A: I believe that there is an afterlife. I keep it simple. I think we are simply ushered into the presence of God. All the ways we describe it — Heaven, cities of gold — are all metaphors for being in God’s presence. I believe that if God is good at anything, God is good at saving. God ultimately and finally will save everybody, which isn’t to say there isn’t going to be a Judgment. There will be. But God’s saving everybody becomes in some ways the Judgment for those who think some people aren’t ever going to get saved.