What good are sermons?
So, here’s the question: “What good are sermons?” You may be thinking, “I’ve been wondering that for years!”
In evangelical and charismatic churches, the sermon is the centerpiece, the focal point, the high water mark of the worship service (as least that’s what pastors think). In liturgical/sacramental churches, it may not be the center of the service but it’s still viewed as highly important.
When I was a young minister starting out, just in my early 20s, I was told that “For every minute of sermon, there should be an hour of study and preparation.”
If every minister did that, even for a short sermon, that would be a chunk of time. Some pastors spend more time in study and preparation than that. Others spend considerably less. Often the prep time is revealed in excellent or pitiful discourses. But what good are sermons?
If you went to church last Sunday, the odds are that, without pondering a bit, you probably don’t remember what the sermon was about. You may remember a story or a joke, but what do you remember about the sermon?
Truth be told, if you asked the pastor what he preached about two or three weeks ago, he may not remember either. He might not even remember what he said last Sunday because he has been fixated on what he will preach this coming Sunday.
Sermons are like meals. Most of us have no idea what we ate last Monday or two weeks ago or, perhaps, even yesterday. The meals we do remember were special and impacted us in profound ways.
The first time I took my wife to the Sundial Restaurant in Atlanta was special. I recall that we shared chilled shrimp and I had a steak, medium rare. That was almost 30 years ago.
I even remember the first breakfast I had the morning after we were married, nearly 42 years ago. It was an Egg McMuffin.
If my math is right, I have eaten somewhere in the neighborhood of 242,390 meals in my life. Small wonder that I can remember only the very good ones (or the very bad ones).
Sermons are like that. I figure that, in my ministry, I have preached at east 4,500 sermons. I remember those that I thought were especially good and I have tried hard, vainly, to forget the very bad ones.
One sermon that I preached some 25-30 years ago, was “Smells and Bells, Incense and Other Nonsense,” which was a sermon against all things liturgical. And now I love and embrace the smells, the bells, the incense, and all that other nonsense because it enriches and deepens my own worship experience.
But the question was, “What good are sermons?” Meals, even the forgotten ones and the poorly prepared ones, are essential to physical survival. Those bacon and eggs, along with the biscuits and gravy my mom fixed every morning all those years ago helped me to get through and face the day.
The meals over the years have sustained us. In a spiritual sense, sermons feed and sustain us. That is their purpose.
If we are spiritual people, when we come to church, the sermon is to be received as a spiritual meal. Standing alone, it is not enough. Personal Bible study, attendance at functions with other believers, prayer, fasting, and all the rest of the spiritual disciplines help to round us out.
But the sermon is not inconsequential. The prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament were all men who prepared and delivered sermons. The sermons had the power to save and to sustain spiritual life. That has not changed.
Tomorrow, all over the nation and around the world, pastors will attempt to feed their flocks. They will come to the podium and present the meal they have been working on during the week.
If the proper ingredients are present (biblical truth, prayer, the Holy Spirit’s guidance and assistance), then the meal will be savory to one who is hungry.
And after the service, the pastor will head back into the “kitchen” to begin work on the next Sunday’s meal. Bon appetit!
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]