I just read an article on Preaching in Worship from a 1979 edition of Themelios [this article, and others, is available here on theologicalstudies.org.uk – a growing and very useful source of freely accessible resources, see also biblicalstudies.org.uk].
In the article the author was contemplating the place of the sermon in the worship service. Without falling into a longer is better than shorter over-simplification, he focused on the value given to the sermon in the service. Too often a shorter sermon can feel like a PS at the end of the service. When the emphasis is placed on sung worship, at the expense of the preached Word, then people are forced to settle for mediated and second-hand worship. This is an interesting point. So often people focus on music because it gives a sense of immediacy to the service, and the message gives a sense of second-hand mediated worship (or often, no sense of worship at all), but the writer pointed to the contrary. The songs are second-hand to the listeners, but the response to the preaching of the Word should be immediate.
The author pointed back to the time when preaching was considered dangerous, and so laws were enacted to restrict public worship speech to that found in the Prayer Book. But later, meticulous following of the Prayer Book was no longer required because nobody was worried that preaching would do any harm. I wonder if those opposed to the work of the gospel in your community (locally and internally in the church) are concerned about the preaching in your church? Whether we are talking about spiritual opposition, or human, what would their perspective be? I suspect in some churches the preaching is considered deeply dangerous to those opposing God’s work, yet in others the platitudinous homilies make no difference whatsoever. If I were on the opposing side I wouldn’t be too concerned about the 14-minute homily I heard in one church not too long ago . . . not primarily because of the length, but because of the lack of impact, the lack of relevance, the lack of engaging the text deeply or the listeners meaningfully.
Interestingly the author writes about how to revitalize preaching and the general level of expectation in respect to preaching. Most people “today don’t want preaching partly because they haven’t heard it.” This is so true. I come across people who decry the value of expository preaching, but these same people are usually those without experience of genuinely biblical, clear, engaging and relevant preaching. What if more people approached the preacher(s) in their church and graciously asked for preaching that would help them learn more of God and His Word?
Preaching is central to worship and it is part of true worship, but more than that, the article suggests that it is not just an equal player in the team of elements that make up a worship service. True preaching has a level of immediacy that supersedes the perceived immediacy of sung worship. This is genuinely something to ponder!
An article from the late 70’s . . . dated in some respects, but helpful nonetheless.