Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sermons


The sermon is to a church service as the entree is to a meal. It is the main part of the one-hour event. I suppose the singing is like the salad. It might be a little iceberg with some french dressing drizzled on it, or it might be a full-blown spring mix with mediterranean vegetables, feta cheese, and a razzle-dazzle house vinaigrette.

Some people don't mind skipping the salad, I mean worship, as long as they show up in time for the main event, the sermon. We go to church to get fed. Pastors are evaluated on their ability to produce an appealing message. In fact, this is usually considered the defining factor in their role of pastor, and many claim to spend the majority of their week preparing the Sunday morning dish.

In spite of questions about the sermon's effectiveness in spiritual transformation, I don't think the sermon is something that will change. It is what people want, what they expect.

Personally, I have probably sat through at least 2,000 sermons - 20 years of 20 minute protestant sermons, followed by 22 years of hour-long charismatic sermons, and now back to 20 minute evangelical sermons.

I have the spiritual gift of dining.

21 comments:

Bob said...

The problem is the entree is usually a bowl of lukewarm Ravioli-O's. They provide something akin to nutrition but when you really can't survive on it.

We don't have the time (or expend the effort) to hand grind our own grains, roll out our pasta, and churn our own butter, grow our own tomatoes. This kind of cooking cannot be done by a single chef--it requires the participation of the entire family. But it tastes so much better.

Pastor Astor said...

Wow! Its a funny thing how different gifts can fill the same need! I have the gift of sleeping with my eyes open.

Lyn said...

I guess we've all become accustomed to dining over the years. I don't sleep with my eyes open, but my mind often wanders!

I really like, and agree with Bob's thoughts.

Robbymac said...

That's funny -- many of our friends leave after the worship because they prefer salad over entree.

I'll be honest: I have ducked out of sermons when it became quickly obvious that the content was (A) dodgy, (B) hyped, or (C) come combination of both.

The lead pastor at the church we currently attend is none of the above; I'm referring to guest speakers, honestly!

Of course, having a Starbucks only a block away can be extremely enticing at times...

Makeesha said...

robbymac- same with people we know - must be a charismatic thing.

Rhonda said...

Is this post and the last post (Pelican feeding) meant to go together or is that just the picture I have of "the sermon"?
:)

Kirk Longhofer said...

How many of those sermons have been the equivalent of a rewarmed microwave cheeseburger from a gas station? Lots of pastors claim to spend most of the week on their sermon. Yeah. Right.

Brett said...

But in terms of the bigger picture a sermon is really just a vitamin supplement for the steady diet consumed during the week through devos.

Anonymous said...

Grace,

I have written a few comments on your blog. You and those who hang out here have greatly encouraged my journey. Could I ask you to pray for us here. Tomorrow we meet with the "Apostle" and "Prophet" to have them ask us why we are leaving, give us the ramifications of our actions and tell us what "judgements and instructions" that will be proclaimed to a later meeting that night of the covenant members. An email went out already today to all our friends. One of our guys called off work for tomorrow (we own our own business), and more hurt is on its way. Others are being told not to talk to us and so on. You all have spoken of loosing your friends in a day and now I am living it. Please pray grace for us to not retaliate but be kind and gracious.

I appreciate you and The Community.

A Former Leader

Karen said...

I might relate worship more like the garlic bread--hee. I'd usually pig out on that and not be so hungry for the meal, but it can always be brought home for later consumption.

As for the evangelical sermons after years of charismatic sermons... well, its been quite bland, to the point of not wanting to eat. It should be a sin to make the Bible seem boring! I'd rather go to Starbucks (and I think Starbucks is a crock).

paul said...

all this food talk is making me hungry :)

maybe it is not less preaching, or more preaching that we need but better preaching?

Inheritor of Heaven said...

Is the spiritual gift of dining found in 2 Hesitations chapter 4?
I used to go to church mainly for the sermon. Then I began to worship more freely and that made the main course larger. Finally I began to notice the Lord speaking through the prayers and ... gasp...even in the liturgy (usually experienced now when I visit other churches). Once (years ago) the Lord made his presence known in my heart as we were reciting, by memory, the "confession of sin" (from the "green book"...Lutheran hymnal and liturgy book.) while sitting way in the back behind the bell choir on confirmation Sunday at a tiny Lutheran church in Grand Marais MN WHILE dealing with a wiggly toddler and strong willed two year old. If the Lord can speak through all that then I decided to listen for him throughout the entire service. Of course with all that watching for the Lord, it seems he also wants to be found in the fellowship in the foyer having coffee after the service as well.
Hmmmm... does that mean I have the deadly sin of gluttony?

J&T said...

hmm...i am new to this conversation, but i am reminded that "bigger is not always better, better is always better."

I happen to be a teaching pastor, and I know for sure that one of the saddest things in the empire of God is to find someone serving "rewarmed cheeseburgers" who thinks it is their gift to the community...I sometimes find myself torn between honesty and flattery: Should we tell them the truth or embrace them with a hug at the end of the service and say, "Great job!" I know that I would prefer the former ;-) I think...haha

Great conversation, good discussion, hope you don't mind my throwing in some thoughts.

John Frye said...

What if "pastors" rather than "feeding" the people, spent 20-50 minutes whetting the people's appetites and then releasing them to go eat?

grace said...

Bob,
I know that in real life, family participation makes for a better meal and the prep time is a warm and bonding experience also.

pastor astor,
My husband walked over to see what I was laughing about. You definitely have the more desirable gift!

lyn,
Since I am not an auditory learner, I have always struggled with my mind wandering during lectures and sermons. Sometimes I fantasize running screaming from the room.

robby and makeesha,
Actually, I've seen both. As the worship leaders in our CLB became more demanding, the avoidance of worship increased.

We had a local coffee shop just around the corner from our CLB, and I admit to playing hooky a few times. I probably would have more, but it was frowned upon when the elder's wives skipped the sermon.

With a 3-hour service, most people did one of the following - come late, leave early, or take a really long coffee break in the middle.

rhonda,
One thought leads to another, and so the blog goes. :)

kirk,
I have heard some pretty good messages in those 2000+ sermons. They haven't all been rewarmed cheeseburgers, but I wonder where we got the idea that this is the main event in church.

brett,
But if we have an adequate diet, do we really need supplements? Not that it hurts to take vitamis too.

karen,
Maybe it's a good thing when we don't come to the table hungry and desperate to be fed.

paul,
I think for me personally, I need more doing, and I need preaching that inspires and encourages my doing. Honestly, for now, I am more encouraged by testimonies than sermons.

inheritor,
That was a good word. Sometimes I can find God in the midst of almost anything. Sometimes I find nothing but my own critical heart. Maybe it depends on what I am looking for. ;)

Hi j&t,
It's nice to meet you. I hope I didn't step on your toes right off the bat.
I don't think that those giving the sermon should necessarily have to cater to the consumeristic demands of congregants either in their preparation of sermons.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

john,
As always, a voice of wisdom. What do you believe would whet their appetites?

Jeff Greathouse said...

I am glad that I came across your blog and I enjoyed the analogy. I hope that you do not mind if I join everyone at your table and feast off of your thoughts.

grace said...

jeff,
Welcome to the table!
The more the merrier.

Julie said...

okay so I have to say it -

is the point of church really to be fed?
not about worshiping God
not about serving others
but about being fed?

Jeff Greathouse said...

Julie:

I think we as a church have a messed up definition of what worship is and that is what makes it tough.

Most people connect church and worship to one hour on sundat.

Barry said...

What is the point of a sermon? My understanding is that it's supposed to be a means of teaching. I'm a teacher and I know that the worst thing I could possibly do to my class is stand out front and talk at them for an hour.

The sermon is yet another example of the traditions of yesteryear obstructing progress in the church of today. What's wrong with breaking into groups to discuss a passage of scripture, or some other approach instead?

grace said...

julie,
Exactly! Which is why a missional mentality must shift the focus from serving me to serving others, including the focus of our Sunday gatherings.

jeff,
How do we (corporately) move away from that mentality? Michael Frost talks about the idea that service is an aspect of our worship.

barry,
It is so traditional that I think in many churches the people would revolt at not getting their 20 minute pep talk fed to them on a silver platter. I agree that it isn't the most effective teaching method.