Why Suffering Belongs in Our Sermons

Matthew D. Kim believes addressing pain is part of a preacher’s calling.

Matthew D. Kim is no stranger to pain, either personally or as a pastor. In Preaching to People in Pain: How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation—which won CT’s 2022 Book Award for church and pastoral leadership—Kim encourages preachers not to avoid addressing pain from the pulpit. Kim served for many years as the director of the Haddon W. Robinson Center for Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s recently been appointed the Hubert H. and Gladys S. Raborn Chair of Pastoral Leadership at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Author and Denver Seminary professor Angie Ward spoke with him about how preaching to pain is a critical aspect of church health.

Your book focuses on an often-overlooked reality for preachers: In any congregation receiving a sermon, there will be listeners who are in pain. To begin, how do you define pain and suffering?

Pain is something that’s universal and yet also so individualized. Even though we all share in pain, we’re not going to experience or process pain and suffering in exactly the same way. So I would say that suffering and pain are about where we each experience discouragement or loss. They have to do with an internal discouragement, frustration, or anger with a situation and feelings of hopelessness about it.

In your book, you mention six universal types of pain: painful decisions, painful finances, painful health issues, painful losses, painful relationships, and painful sins. Have you seen an increase in particular types of pain over the past two years?

I think most of us recognize that loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues seem to be at the forefront in …

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