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Posted on Aug 16, 2010 in Creativity, Leadership

Why Sermons? If Jesus came today would he preach?

I know that I’m walking a tight-rope with this post, but it’s something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about (as with worship services in general). (This post is only meant to invoke thought, not bash sermons.)

I know the history.

I know that Jesus taught.

I know that Peter and Paul and others preached.

But why sermons? Why the passive listening? Do we actually learn from sermons anymore? Are that many people’s lives being changed through the power of sermons?

Or could it be, that they were powerful for a time and that time is coming to an end? Could it be that sermons were powerful through the reformation and with revivalists, but that now they’re just what you do at church and no one is willing to bring up the topic of change?

We’ve seen change in other part of the worship service. Music has changed with the times. Some churches have changed the way we take offering, others the way we take communion. Some churches have changed the venue in which we meet and others the venue through which we see the sermon, but how many have changed the sermon?

Sure some have made some changes. A video here. A drama there. A costume here. A song there. But, for the most part and for the majority of the weeks out of the year, the format stays the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily have some other idea for teaching/preaching/sermons (by the way, what’s the point of sermons – to teach?). And I’m not just trying to get more time for the worship guys (though I most certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that). It just seems that, for the most part, with all the change the church has been through the biggest piece of the puzzle remains unchanged. And as culture changes faster than I can type the word change, shouldn’t the biggest portion of our services also be thought through just as carefully as every other slice of the pie?

(Now, I just want to go eat my last piece of birthday apple pie. Maybe pie is the answer….)

If Jesus were to have chosen now to come and show us the way the truth and the life, do you think he’ be preaching sermons? As for me, I don’t know. Jesus’ messages are timeless, transcend all human teaching ability and will never be replaced other than by Jesus himself. But in the time in which Jesus came, that’s what people did. Rabbi’s of the day didn’t have to fight for people’s attention because what else was there? Hanging out with tax collectors?

I just wonder what means of communication Jesus would choose to use in this day and age. Sure it’s kind of a hypothetical question, but from where I sit, it’s a question we need to ask. We may never agree on an answer. We may fail in our attempts to communicate more effectively. But then again, we may become more effective at reaching people for Christ. People who have already heard sermons and found no reason to continue listening.

Let me ask you this, how many people’s lives are being changed (I’m talking real change, not Sunday change) as a result of the sermons that are being preached at your church? If the answer to that question is many, then maybe you don’t need to change anything. Maybe you do. If the answer to that question is few, then maybe you need to change something. Then again, maybe it’s the worship guy’s spiky hair that needs to be changed.

Regardless, in our quest to reach a many people for Christ, let us not leave any stone unturned. The stones you turn may bare the most fertile ground.

And all it needs is a seed.

Just one.

(Chime in! If you have input on this topic, leave your comment below. If you think I’m totally off base, feel free to let me know that you think so! If you have an idea of what sermons should look like today, or what Jesus would do, let us all know!!!)

  • David, Thanks for asking the question. Too many churches have sacred cows that they are unwilling to even consider touching because that is the way it has always been.

    Personally, I love our Sunday sermons, but I see them as a starting point for conversation with my wife, friends, other Christ-followers, or even those who aren’t Christ-followers. It is through these conversations that I grow the most because I am now personally interacting with the Word of God, which includes re-reading and studying passages preached on, as opposed to merely listening to a someone speaking.

    So maybe it is not that “sermonizing” should be done away with but rather the way we view the purpose of sermons.

  • Thanks for the feedback Todd! I am not sure where I land on this yet. I do think we need to teach God’s word and teach people to live by the principles that lie within.

    However, my question lies more within the realm of how we learn. In our natural state, when we seek to learn things how do we learn them?

  • Sam

    If your refrigerator breaks, you fix it or replace it with a new refrigerator. But, you don’t go and buy another microwave to replace the broken refrigerator. I believe sermon is still an effective way to communicate God’s word with the people of God if it is done right by the right person. Even with all the technological advancements, communication between people didn’t really change all that much. We communicate through visual, speach, written words, and touch. Speach is still one of the main ways to communicate. We still talk to each other, right? Txting and e-mail is efficient as written communication but you don’t get all you get from actual conversations like tone of the voice, gestures, and expressions. All these reasons are why pastors still preach and why people still come to hear them. There is something special about an effective preacher wielding the Word of God, it’s POWERFUL. Same message spoken by another wouldn’t carry same effect. The person delivering the message matters. Also, you mentioned that the music changed but we still have music in worship, right? Same words that praise our God, but different tune. It’s same with sermons. The reason you couldn’t think of an alternative to sermon is because there really isn’t an alternative. If there were, it would have been tried. Even the most contemporary churches have sermons. Wouldn’t they have asked the question you are asking? Sure, they have. The question is how can we better deliver the message of God to the people? So they use visual aids, videos, outlines, dramas, and such as you mentioned, but there really isn’t something that can completely replace human speach. It’s just too powerful and effective. Not just in Christian terms but generally. Since there really isn’t an alternative, preachers just need to prepare better, know their congregation better, know the Scripture better, be filled with Holy Spirit, and simply deliver the Message given to them by God and not their own ideas and agendas. Same Word of God, but spoken to the people in a way that connects with them. That is the job of the preacher since the beginning. What do you think?

    • Thanks Sam, those are some great points. I understand exactly what you’re saying. My question is, have we not come up with another option because there isn’t one or because we haven’t been creative enough, or worked hard enough, etc – to find something else.

      I think visual aids are good things. But if someone lacks great communication skills, it’s like dressing up a dog. You can put a bumble bee costume on the dog for Halloween, but it’s still a dog. I think that there are times in the church when we sacrifice great communication for other skills – which are also very important.

      Like I said, I don’t have an answer in my mind. I don’t have an alternative, I just wonder if there is one and we just haven’t been diligent enough to find it.