6.01.2006

I Don't Believe in Sermons

In the first century AD, the followers of Jesus Christ met mostly in homes for meals and fellowship, and spoke publicly in synagogues and marketplaces only to portray the message: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" The informal home assemblies focused on edifying the believer, strengthening his or her faith, and equipping each person to more effectively share the Gospel and live for Christ. Teaching varied greatly depending upon the audience. In a Christian environment, believers encouraged one another with the Scriptures, the letters from the apostles to the churches, and with the promise of God's grace. However, in a secular environment Christians preached the law of God and the terrible reality of His righteous judgment on those who rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Their purpose in these settings was to bring unsaved people to a knowledge of their sin and a knowledge of the Gospel. The Biblical way of "sermonizing" was Law to the proud, Grace to the humble. Now, skipping forward 1900 years. . . . Today's "sermon" follows a much different tack. Generally a pastor is preaching to an audience that has both Christians and non-Christians in it, so he must try and appeal to both crowds equally. The mixed group, however, prevents him from using the law - it would confuse and condemn the Christians - or from speaking about grace - it would be "foolishness to those that are perishing" (1 Corinthians 1:18). So today's sermon is forced into a tight mold that constrains it from displaying the true Word of God. A "good" pastor today will usually give a watered-down version of Grace:
God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. If you are a Christian, come up front! We can help you to live God's wonderful plan even more. If you aren't a Christian, you need to ask Jesus into your heart so that you can start living God's wonderful plan! Either way, come down to the altar and pray with one of our qualified advisors!
Sound familiar? Sadly, attempts to cater to a mixed crowd has turned the Gospel into a "contemporary" message of happiness and contentment through saying "the prayer". No wonder most Americans live like Pollyanna. Organized religious Christianity has done much for the Gospel - but it really has not done much good. Rather than equipping believers and saving the lost, it has presented an unbiblical "Jesus message" that is producing greater and greater numbers of false converts every day. No where in the Bible do we find one of the apostles saying, "Pray this prayer with me and Jesus will come into your heart." Nor do we find the "life enhancement" message so prevalent in our "Christian" culture today. Remember: Law to the proud, Grace to the humble. Jesus changed His message based on who He was speaking to. Why shouldn't we? In Him, David S. MacMillan III

9 comments:

Brian Whalen said...

Hmmmm, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with some of what you said here.

You said, "Generally a pastor is preaching to an audience that has both Christians and non-Christians in it, so he must try and appeal to both crowds equally. The mixed group, however, prevents him from using the law - it would confuse and condemn the Christians - or from speaking about grace - it would be "foolishness to those that are perishing" (1 Corinthians 1:18)."

I would say rather that a "good" pastor needs to use both the law AND grace in ANY sermon. It also depends on what kind of preaching we are talking about here, because expositional preaching doesn't just talk about the law and grace. There is much else concerning the Christian life to preach about, although I certainly believe that preaching must be Gospel-centered, which would include an accurate picture of man's sinfulness in relation to the law and God's grace because of the cross. The law would only confuse and condemn Christians if it were talked about without also talking about grace. And I also disagree with your use of 1 Corinthians 1:18 here. The verse says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Are you suggesting that this verse implies that Christians should refrain from speaking the message of the cross to unbelievers? I certainly hope not!

You seem to be suggesting that the modern church is ineffective in its structure as far as preaching to believers and unbelievers together. Are you suggesting that churches should be closed to unbelievers? What exactly are you proposing?

My biggest problem with this post, however, is that you said: “Jesus changed His message based on who He was speaking to.” I absolutely disagree. Jesus never changed His message. If you’re saying He met people where they were, I would agree. If you’re saying He reached out to all sorts of different people, I would agree. But His message of salvation did not and does not change.

I do agree with you about the growing popularity of the “life enhancement” message that many churches do present, and I agree that there is a massive problem with such preaching, but I think that is a separate problem unrelated to sermons being preached to believers and unbelievers. That is more a problem with specific pastors and churches misunderstanding the Gospel. I would actually say that THEY are the ones changing their message based on who they are speaking to, as you suggest.

Would love to hear any further thoughts on this!

Ednella said...

I disagree with pretty much the same things as Brian, and I think you took 1 Corinthians 1:18 slightly out of context. The whole of the passage points out that God uses week, foolish, and rejected things for his use. Brian Whalen brought that out very well.

A lot of topical preaching is very watered down, with humerous anecdotes and a plethora of illustrations to "tickle people's ears." There is a time and a place for topical preaching, but the major portion of any Christian's diet at church should be on the meat of expositional preaching, preaching that does not back down from touchy subjects or unclear passages.

Jesus did not ever change His message! What are you talking about there? As Brian said, he met them where they were and spoke particulary on the areas where thet needed help, but His main message was "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," just as John the Baptist said.

You have a point on the mixed group making preaching difficult sometimes, but I don't think that in any way should effect the tone of the message. At my church there are at least 4 unbelievers in regular attendance. One lady, Emma, has been coming to church for many years with her neighbor, and she is seldom offended by anything my dad says. She is Catholic and still trusts in her works, and my dad has constantly refuted that from the pulpit. He preached on hell once, and Emma was all ears, turning to the passages in the Bible and taking thourough notes. Neither grace nor law turn her away from Christianity.

That's my two cents.

~Nella

Giggle Fritz said...

I think your right on the Money David.

Scott W. Somerville said...

I guess it depends on what you mean by a "sermon." I've given LOTS of biblical "talks" to homeschoolers, but I view a "sermon" as a "proclamation of the Gospel," not just a "useful teaching based on the Bible."

That Bold Blonde Lady said...

Hey Man,
So do you think there is a difference between preaching and giving a sermon? Is a sermon a scripted text? (What about "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?)

Or is it sermonizing? Preaching like you get from your parents? An encouraging lecture maybe?

Because Paul says, "How can they hear without a preacher"? The 'foolishness of preaching' certainly falls within a biblical context. Can't argue with that.

Are you talking about the content of the preaching and a watered down gospel? Another gospel that sounds awful close to the real thing; inspiring, except that a half-truth is a lie?

Clarify it for us.

flunking in the world's school said...

Christ's message was the same - all truth. But different parts of the message were delivered incisively to his different children. The rules are all the same for everyone, but they can be applied from different angles depending upon the heart of the listener.

Is that what you mean?

Anonymous said...

David,

Are you aware of the FACT that not everyone agrees with you?

Is it not abundantly obvious that you hold a narrow minded self centered view of the world!?!?!?!

When are you GOING TO GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get over your self rightous indignation and realize that you view of this world, OURS, EVERYONES WOLRD, is not ruled by YOUR diety nor is it within your perview of the world to determine who is right or wrong?!>?!?!
You are one of the most confusing and confused CHILDREN in the wold. You have take EVERHING for granted that your parents or teachers has said and decided that anything else is impossible.

NEWS FLASH, IMPORTANT: that which you hold as the truth and that which you hold to be false is EQUAL! THERE IS NO, ZERO,ZIP, NODA, NOTHING THAT SAYS LOGICALLY, SENSABLY INTELLIGABLY, OR TRUTHFULLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That you, your ilk, are "THE TRUTH"!!!!!!!!

You are exactly what your parents planned and programmed you for! A narrow minded idiot that repeats WITHOUT question ALL that you hear. iT IS TRUELY A PITY TO SEE A YOUNG MID DESIMATED AND WASTED DO TO MYTHOLOGY AND B.S.

Grow up. WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY?

That was rhetorical, GET OVER IT AND WAKE THE H UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 David,

 Are you aware of the FACT that not everyone agrees with you?

 Is it not abundantly obvious that you hold a narrow minded self centered view of the world!?!?!?!

 When are you GOING TO GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 Get over your self rightous indignation and realize that you view of this world, OURS, EVERYONES WOLRD, is not ruled by YOUR diety nor is it within your perview of the world to determine who is right or wrong?!>?!?!
 You are one of the most confusing and confused CHILDREN in the wold. You have take EVERHING for granted that your parents or teachers has said and decided that anything else is impossible.

 NEWS FLASH, IMPORTANT: that which you hold as the truth and that which you hold to be false is EQUAL! THERE IS NO, ZERO,ZIP, NODA, NOTHING THAT SAYS LOGICALLY, SENSABLY INTELLIGABLY, OR TRUTHFULLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 That you, your ilk, are "THE TRUTH"!!!!!!!!

 You are exactly what your parents planned and programmed you for! A narrow minded idiot that repeats WITHOUT question ALL that you hear. iT IS TRUELY A PITY TO SEE A YOUNG MID DESIMATED AND WASTED DO TO MYTHOLOGY AND ETC., ETC., grow up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ednella said...

Anonymous, you are 100% wrong! While everyone might not agree with David, he still has the right to reasonably present his views however he wishes. Your comment was unkind and uncalled for, and I don't see any need to trash-talk his parents and his own opinions. By your comment condeming David for being "narrow-minded," you have shown yourself to be just that-- narow-minded. Opinions aren't what matter in spiritual issues. What matters is Sola Scriptura.

~Nella

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

You made some pretty good points.