113: Coffee with Lisa Cressman

Rev. Dr. Lisa Cressman is the Founder and Steward of Backstory Preaching. She is the Assisting Priest at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Houston, Texas. Her Doctor of Ministry is from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana, and her Master of Divinity is from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. Lisa also has her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Be sure to read Backstory Preaching: Life, Spirituality, and Craft (June 2018) cover to cover!

“Let your life speak” is an old Quaker adage and the title Parker Palmer has given to his popular book which is common reading at every seminary. For any preacher, like Lisa Cressman, the adage would become “let your life preach.” Put better by Lisa herself, you will hear her adieu at the end of our interview as “be good news to preach good news.” First we must be the Good News. Then and only then we can preach the Good News. If this is the life, promise and love you want to preach then you have come to the right place to get all the pieces in place that you will need to bring your preaching life into one accord.

In my own mathematical, engineering undergraduate existence I developed an understanding that none of us gets to be a non-factor in life. While a lot of people try to effect nothing and no one, attempt to do no damage or no harm. That is not an available option. We are all a factor. If an equation of life could be written, like “Life = 7R x 8Q(3T/4P) – 2B + 9D,” then what would you be? Yes, we get to choose. Of course, my job is to be asking myself, “What will I be? Will I be a plus or minus in the equation?” Even if I tried to be a zero, I’d fail. Try it yourself and you’ll see, you only end up hurting people (minus). There’s more. Multiplication is repeated addition, right? That’s an option. As is division. And while superscripts aren’t an option with my editor here, in life we can strive to have exponential effects.

Saving the world from one lousy sermon at a time

This mathematical construct may seem strange but it is what I was reminded of when Lisa talked with me about everyone preaching all of the time with the lives that they are living. When we recognize that we’re already being a factor – that we cannot be otherwise – then we can choose to do it as well as possible. You’re already preaching with your life you might just as soon preach well. Whatever we asses ourselves to be in life, with my equation, why don’t we improve our impact (our role in the equation and in life, and, in this case, in our preaching)? Somewhere I read that Backstory Preaching is saving the world from one lousy sermon at a time!

Lisa says, “Anybody can preach in the pulpit! Absolutely anybody can learn to do this.” She gives us these critical questions:

  • What does ‘an effective sermon’ mean?
  • How do you recognize one?
  • How do you produce one?

What do we do with those questions now? Did I mention that her Doctor of Ministry is in PRACTICAL Theology? That means she won’t give you theory without praxis. Try these.

Now let’s finish where we usually start, coffee. Lisa is also a doctor of coffee and gave us these words:

“Coffee is an event; it is not a beverage.”


Backstory Preaching: Life, Spirituality, and Craft (2018)

Backstory Preaching

Sponsor: United Faith Leaders

Preaching Through Uncertain Times (instant access, self-paced course)

Craft an Effective Sermon by Friday

1:1 Sermon Coaching

(Online) Summer Camp for Preachers

The Preacher’s Trust (forthcoming book)

Free Range Priest

Father Cathie Caimano Coffeepot Fellowship Interview

Festival of Homiletics

Seminary of the Southwest

Church Divinity School of the Pacific

Christian Theological Seminary

Episcopal Church of the Epiphany

University of Wisconsin-Madison