the weblog of Alan Knox

Sermon Central

Posted by on Jun 27, 2009 in blog links | 13 comments

Steve at “From the Pew” considers a very important topic in his post “The Sermon-Centered Life.” He wants to know why the sermon is considered central to many Christians traditions. For example, he says:

Preaching is scriptural. The sermon may have developed more as a tradition than not, but a tradition that isn’t forbidden is fine. I’m fine with sermons and preaching. But what I’m trying to get at is why it’s often so central, so much more important than all other things in the church, so often exclusionary of other things. Many times I have found myself thinking, “Gee, I’m a bit late to church for whatever reason, but at least I didn’t miss the sermon.” If the sermon goes late, sometimes other activities can be cut short for the sake of preaching. People don’t often ask how the praying or singing or offering went, they ask how the sermon went. We often make recordings of only the sermon. To many, the sermon is the most important thing in church, and even the thing around which all other Christian life is lived. It can solve our problems like nothing else. It can make or break the reputation of a pastor.

I think Steve may have inadvertantly touched on one reason that the sermon is central for many churches and many traditions: because the pastor is central. And what does a pastor do? Most would say that a pastor preaches. In fact, in many Southern Baptist churches, pastor and preacher are synonymous.

As Steve points out, you can find preaching – proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers – in Scripture. Of course, that’s not what we call “preaching” today, but it is what Scripture calls “preaching.”

So, we should ask ourselves why the sermon is central is so many churches today. We should also ask, if the sermon is not central is Scripture, then what has the sermon replaced… and why?


13 Comments

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  1. 6-27-2009

    In addition, many pastors spend enormous amounts of time preparing their sermons. So not only is the sermon the focus of the Sunday gathering, but the pastor is paid to spend a large amount of time preparing for the sermon. I love me some good preaching but I am concerned that we have made it more than it should be and we spend an inordinate amount of time on them.

    When I pastored a church, members would tell me that they encouraged people to come so they could hear me preach (there wasn’t much “good” preaching in Northern Michigan). I loved hearing that then, “Yes you should come hear me preach!”, but now I wonder why they weren’t encouraging people to come to fellowship with the rest of the people.

  2. 6-27-2009

    Arthur,

    Good question. For that very reason, I’ve completely changed the way I prepare for teaching and the way I teach.

    -Alan

  3. 6-27-2009

    Have you read Dan’s comments about what should be the centre – http://ceruleansanctum.com/2009/06/finding-the-center—the-response.html? Makes for fascinating reading in the light of what your article brings out.

  4. 6-27-2009

    Alan,

    What did you change about the way you prepare for teaching and the way you teach?

    -jeff

  5. 6-27-2009

    Christopher,

    I’ve been traveling, so I haven’t read Dan’s post. I would tend to agree that we should be kingdom-centered. It seems that Jesus was kingdom-centered and told his followers to be kingdom-centered.

    Jeff,

    It’s difficult to explain. I tried to explain this to a friend a couple of weeks ago. I’ll try to put this into a post. The short answer is this: I no longer study in order to teach or preach.

    -Alan

  6. 6-28-2009

    Alan,

    It is my experience that the sermon has many times replaced my own time in the Scriptures. In the past few years I have realized that for me the sermon on Sunday has to be secondary or tertiary to me reading and studying the Scriptures. Most of the time tertiary because I will probably learn more from others than the preacher.

    I have seen this in others who had the attitude that they “had” to get to church on Sunday to hear the sermon. When I got to know them I realized that this was many times the only Word they received all week. This I believe is a result of the strong emphasis or priority the institution puts on the sermon.

    Another reason why after 60 hours of seminary I have decided not to be “that kind of pastor”. The pressure those kind of sermons put on a man, has to be unhealthy.

    Kirt

  7. 6-28-2009

    Kirt,

    I think your comment is very perceptive and very true. This is another reason that I’ve changed the way that I prepare to teach and teach. I try to prepare in a way that anyone could prepare and for the purpose of having God change me. I then teach from that transformation. Thus, I don’t study just to teach.

    Hopefully, I’m also able to encourage others to study Scripture for themselves by showing that its possible to study Scripture while working a 40 hour job… it’s not just for the professionals.

    -Alan

  8. 5-12-2011

    The Eucharist. :-)

  9. 5-12-2011

    Brian,

    I think it depends on what you mean by the Eucharist.

    -Alan

  10. 5-12-2011

    Alan,

    You know exactly what I mean! :-)

    Unfortunately this is becoming a problem even amongst Catholics. At one time priests would commonly ask me what I thought of their homilies. Since my standard reply was, “Does it matter that much?” they quit asking. Unity of the people of God, in charity, doctrinally, and sacramentally supersedes anything that can be delivered in a sermon (or homily).

  11. 5-12-2011

    Brian,

    Yes, and you know that I don’t think we can find the modern-day Eucharist, Communion, or Lord’s Supper in Scripture. They are all shadows of what the early Christians actually did together.

    -Alan

  12. 5-12-2011

    I agree to the extent that the form of celebration of the modern-day Eucharist has undergone changes with time. In other words, I don’t think you will find an order of Mass in the scriptures with the Ordinary and Proper prayers, although it was codified fairly quickly as the early Church Fathers such as St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil attest. Otherwise, the essence of the Eucharist is completely scriptural.

  13. 8-11-2011

    Okay,

    Alan, the link to Steve’s blog does not reference that article.

    Chris,

    Your link is broken also…

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