Has Preaching Had Its Day?

Has the sermon had its day?  Is there still a place for preaching?  Jonny Baker explores preaching in a thought provoking piece he wrote about a year ago… Preaching: throwing a had-grenade in  fruit bowl

I have to say that I don’t think preaching is done yet, but then you might expect someone who stands at the front of a church most Sundays to say that.

My biggest complaint about lots of preaching is that it is mostly average at best.  I know it’s hard to hit the heights every week but it seems to me that most of the complaints I hear about preaching are really about quality.  Most of us enjoy listening to a captivating speaker for much longer than 10 or 15 minutes.  I regularly listen to Rob Bell talk on his podcast for an hour and I’m disappointed when it’s over.  And that has no visual aids.

So, here’s my plea to anyone who gets to stand up in front of any group of people to speak.  Look on that 15 minute slot as the most important 15 minute presentation of your life, without the associated stress obviously. Would that change how you approach it? Should you expect people to disagree with what you said? What would you like them to go home thinking about?

In Jonny’s article he say:

Mike Riddell suggests that ‘The purpose of the sermon is to unleash the power of scripture in a way that leads to personal and corporate encounter with God.’ (p119 God’s Home Page).  I like that.  I’d add that it should open up the possibility of transformation which maybe is implicit in his definition.  One other goal of preaching/teaching is education – enabling people to learn.

Is that what you get on a Sunday?  Is that what you set out to do on a Sunday?  What do you think about preaching?

2 thoughts on “Has Preaching Had Its Day?”

  1. Has the sermon had its day? No
    Is there still a place for preaching? Yes
    And I don’t say that because I have a vested interest in the answers.
    Preaching has both a scriptural and theological mandate. To be Barthian about it, preaching ‘becomes’ the word of God when it faithfully interprets the witness of scripture to the Gospel. Unless we elevate scripture to a place where it is sufficient in and of itself then it will always need interpretation. That can never be open to group concensus and must be a ‘led’ activity.
    Now, whether that means declaiming from the pulpit for anything up to an hour or so is debatable. But there aren’t too many other ways where a large ‘audience’ can be engaged effectively. Jonny’s example of the way they taught the psalms would work with a fairly small group but I doubt it would be feasible for a congregation of a couple of hundred, comprised of a huge age range. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its place and should be used where it can be done effectively.
    Furthermore, there needs to be a balance between exposition and application. Too much exposition and it’s a lecture. Too much application and it becomes a list of rules for moral living. The purpose of preaching is to ‘build up’ the body of Christ (the church). This can’t be done as an activity in isolation from all other aspects of worship, but nor can it be ignored for it is still one of the most effective teaching vehicles.
    Anyone who suggests that preachers need to spend more time preparing engaging, multi-media-filled, participatory and challenging worship has obviously never had to deal with the responsibilities of parish ministry. And anyone who suggests that that is why it should be a team effort has never had to deal with the apathy commonly found in the average congregation.
    ( Can you tell I’m in essay/dissertation writing mode at the moment? )

  2. SC, a couple of quick thoughts – average preaching is toiling in a media-soaked culture. We’re so over-communicated with/to/at (incl me!) that unless it tickles our senses or the Holy Spirit is given room to speak to us (by us?) then we dismiss it.

    It’s maybe about people being authentic. that will get people’s attention. as for the busyness of parish ministry, I honestly think this is why we are to be a body who ministers to one another. one guy/girl can’t be epected to laugh & cry with peopl and share life and then prepare a dynamic, astounding sermon in the few minutes they have left. do you expect that person to clean the loo and sweep the floor as well?

    Dunno if that’s right, but it’s food for thought!

    Peace, W

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