A few more words on Sermons
After yesterday's long commentary about preaching, I thought I'd add a few more thoughts:
1. Length: guess what? Most of us are not good enough preachers to preach an hour. And if you look back at yesterday, and avoid those pitfalls, guess what? Your preaching will be shorter too. Preach as long as necessary to make the appropriate point, but, and this feeds into the next comment: keep the point calm enough.
2. Points: The Gospel should come out in every sermon. Other things and parts of theology do NOT have to. In fact, if you're going to preach everything this sermon, what will you preach next time? Don't neglect the leadership of the Spirit of God, but don't kid yourself, or overestimate your importance: while some may never hear you again, is your theological viewpoint on economics what they need? Or do they need to hear that Christ Jesus lived, died, and rose according to God's plan for their, and your, redemption. Further:
3. Expository preachers: I am, generally, one. I take the text, and preach what's there. This guides topic selection. However, sometimes, we need to pick shorter sections of Scripture. Really, do you need the whole chapter? Break it down, if the section demands an hour to preach, can you preach it in two sermons? Chill out.
4. Final comment related to length: The mind can only absorb as much as the other end can endure. I know the arguments about attention spans and how we'll watch 2 hour movies and 3 hour football games. Personally, though, I don't sit in silence at either. I rarely go to the theater, but when I do, I've got snacks, and whisper to my wife. I'm not quiet at ball games, and one of the joys of movies at home is that we can talk, pause, rewind, etc. Want to build a 3-hour worship service with a couple of 30 minute preaching spots? That could work, especially with an intermission for a restroom run, but most of us are not really being right when we preach that long.
4 a. (corollary) There are some people that will sit through and demand longer or pontificate how holy they are for the length of time they are in church or at Bible study. Quick question: We are God's people, we are "the church" 168 hours a week. How many hours are you spending isolated "at church" and is making a difference in the other hours? I'm all for regular Christian worship, and I'm for it a scheduled, predicable times, but I hear people talk about spending 10 hours in church service type activities every week, and then their Saturdays are no different than mine, their cities no more won for Christ than mine. Why are they bothering be in church twice as much if it doesn't make twice the difference?
5. Get over the compliments and the criticisms. Guess what? The lovely church member that said he couldn't help think about you when he was listening to ____(Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Billy Graham) could be half-deaf. He could be thinking how much he wished he could stay home from your sermon to watch more _____. Or he could be being complimentary. But don't preach for that person. And don't preach to copy _____ except that you copy their passion for the lost and the Word of God. As to criticism: I've received mistimed criticism, but I don't know that I've received undeserved criticism. The sermon I heard it after may have been great, but there have been some turkeys that no one mentioned. So, learn from it, evaluate what good you can take from it, and move on.
6. Grow. There are seasons when I'm a better preacher than other times. Some of those times are predictable, but others aren't. It is ok to make your best effort and have not much from it. Just don't ever not make your best effort.
7. Find honest critics, but listen to yourself too. I, occasionally, go back and listen to the content and style of my preaching. Usually, I listen to make sure the audio podcast worked, then I turn it off, but I sometimes make myself listen. It helps me grow, but I'm frequently very shaky the next time I preach, because I think I'm awful. By contrast, your mom probably thinks you're the best preacher in the world. Seek people that help you balance.