A few weeks ago, a Gallup poll found that sermon content was what most appeals to churchgoers. It certainly does to me--especially since I am the occasion writer of sermons. I want background into what was happening in a Scriptural passage--both for when it occurred and when it was written (two different things). I want to know how the original hearer of Scripture heard it--what was their background and how did he/she apply it. I want to know how a passage has been interpreted by tradition. ALL of that is just a small part of what I want to hear in a sermon. Of course, I also want to know what was put into the heart of the preacher by the Holy Spirit as well. I want sermons that touch everyone in a congregation, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, the business owner, the single parent, etc.
It isn't often that I hear exceptional sermons. Divinity school taught me to offer critique, and I've never gotten past that. I can overlook some things. But I know the difference between good and bad sermons.
Today I took the boys to a non-denominational church that I will not name. We were there on time. At least two people suggested that the boys go to the children's Sunday School instead of worshiping with me--but I declined that because I believe in worship as a family activity. I feel that maybe we all could have gotten more out of Sunday School in the end. There were three praise songs, and I didn't know any of them. I can get over that. However, the sermon was not good. It had passages out of context. Called part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus's first sermon--and it wasn't. And it didn't really explain how we got from the Scripture passage to the conclusion in a coherent way. I couldn't figure out the message or how to apply it to my life.
So today we attempted worship, but I'm not so sure I found it--even though we were in a church building for an hour.
My message to the sermon crafter: learn everything you can about the holy task of sermon preparation. Read! Find books that give background and history--and write well and speak well. This is something you work at--even take some voice lessons. And if it is what people are coming to church for, then you better make sure it is well prepared.
Honestly, I wanted to ask the pastor if he had ever been to seminary. But I kept my mouth shut.
If you are a pastor and want some books to study to hone your writing, send me a message. I can help you with some resources.