Despite predictions of the end of preaching, evangelical churches still feature weekend worship gatherings in which the most prominent component is a address by a speaker. And this is still called the “sermon,” but it has morphed into something quite different than an exposition of the Bible that was the standard even twenty years ago.
Instead of exploration and exposition of the Bible, many sermons today go a different direction. Frequently found is the topical approach in which the preacher comes up with outline based on related points of Christian advice and then strings reliable proof texts together to give the impression of biblical support. Also popular are messages that promote a supposedly Christian position on political issues (e.g., support of Israel) and are tinged with patriotism and affirmation of American exceptionalism. A newer trend is what one of my friends called “preaching the announcements,” in which the 30 minutes of face time with the congregation are used to promote the programs of the church, especially things that would contribute to church growth.
Why is this significant or important? It seems to me that there has been an almost systematic destruction of any form of biblical teaching in our churches in the last three decades. Few churches have any vibrant adult education programs and the idea of “Sunday School” for all ages seems quaint and unnecessary. This has made the sermon the primary and solitary opportunity for church members to have direct and skilled teaching of the Bible. Therefore we now have “teaching pastors” and the sermon has been replaced by the “morning lesson” in some churches.
Even this seems to be slipping away. The sermon is less filled with theological truth derived from God’s word and more full of preacherly wisdom derived from other sources.
But why should we preach the Bible anyway? What’s the big deal?
Let me offer one compelling reason.
A central task and responsibility of the church is to disciple its people. The word “disciple” is better translated “student,” so the process of disciple-making has teaching at its core. It would seem to me that an essential part of making non-Christians into disciples of Christ would be to help them become more godly in their lifestyle, attitudes, and priorities. How do we do this? I think we begin the process of teaching people to be godlike by showing them what God is like. This must come from Scripture. Remember that theology is simply the attempt to understand what God is like, and the finest resource is his Word. Theological Preaching = teaching people what God is like.
Unfortunately, the understanding of God held by any church member is derived from many sources other than the Bible. Chief among these are snippets about God from popular culture such as movies (Morgan Freeman for God anybody?), hip-hop music (Jesus Muzik), and social media (let’s do a quick poll on what we think God should be like, OK?). We are likely to have a view of God that makes him supremely non-judgmental while being too remote and busy with other stuff to care about us personally.
So preachers, let’s do the hard work of developing interesting biblical sermons. This cannot be done in 60 minutes a week. It also cannot be done on the fly while you are up front. It takes diligence, concentration, and a deep love for God’s Word. And it means you will need to find another venue for your announcements than the weekly sermon.
Nebraska Christian College