I hear a lot of things about preaching. Not all of them are positive. People can’t concentrate as long as they used to. People don’t like long sermons. The church needs to move to “talks” in order to be contemporary and relevant. The religious monological tirade is a thing of the past. And on it goes.
It’s almost amusing how people so quickly default to shrinking and changing the sermon when things aren’t going so well. But if you have the privilege of seeing more than one local church context you will quickly realise that the “diet sermonette” approach is not the only option. Why is it that so many of the thriving churches have 40-minute sermons, or even longer in some cases? Why is it that some churches that make preaching a central feature of church life are packed to the rafters with the generation that can no longer concentrate or tolerate sermons?
I think that throwing out the sermon because it isn’t working in a particular context is short-sighted. It’s like saying my ten year old car is struggling to make the 50 mile commute to work every day, so I’ll replace it with a skateboard. Skateboards are more contemporary, and big old fume generating machines are so old fashioned. I’m not making an ecological statement here, but some forms of transport aren’t up to the burden placed on them. The old car and the new skateboard are not up to the task. So the solution is probably going to be a better car. Old monologues that feel like tirades and pithy little “talks” are not up to the task when it comes to all the weight placed on preached. The solution is not something new, it’s something renewed. If the preaching isn’t good enough, improve the preaching, don’t just terminate the sermon slot.
I’m passionate about good preaching, and saddened by the short-sightedness of so many that feel preaching should be disposed of, even in the absence of a suitable alternative. I’ve said it before, and will say it again. This generation is hungry for good preaching. That is, preaching that effectively and accurately and provocatively and relevantly and engagingly and vulnerably and spiritually conveys the teaching of God’s Word. Remember, we are talking about Biblical Preaching . . . so the material we’re using is the very best there is, it is God’s Word. Now the burden is on us to somehow do justice to God’s Word in how we preach it!