With increasing frequency, various articles surface on social media feeds, inviting the app user to click on the link and consume whatever the particular publication or writer is peddling. “Peddling” because often the title of the article is such that it seems the writer is more interested in getting a “click” than in saying something worthwhile. Especially in the case of articles addressed to the Church, we would do well to write what is true and what is edifying to the body.
Recently, a scroll through my news feed turned up a subjective piece on ten things churches should do away with or, as it was more specifically stated, ten things that “need to go.” Clicking through the ten different screens, as required to get through the article, quickly revealed the tenth thing as none other than “the sermon.” The writer proposed eliminating the sermon from all church services, instead opting for the congregation to be broken up into small groups clustered around tables during service time “to better encourage discussions.” According to the writer, churches “could still have your pastor up front on Sundays” (as though being “up front” is an objective of the pastor), but rather than “just talking,” the pastor could “lead experiences.”
The author doesn’t expound on what “experiences” pastors might “lead.” Nor does she defend her implicit assertion that pastors are “just talking” when they step up before their congregations each week to preach from the Word of God. While there is no intent here to belittle anyone, including a well-meaning Christian web-writer, the piece misses the mark. Perhaps the piece was a poorly thought-out attempt to garner some reads and boost activity on the website. It’s hard to tell. At the very least, however, such proposals carry the potential to create confusion within the body of Christ and do little to edify that same body of believers.
A cursory reading of the gospels and accounts of the early church make clear that preaching the gospel was an essential part of God’s plan to enlarge His kingdom.
A cursory reading of the gospels and accounts of the early church make clear that preaching the gospel was an essential part of God’s plan to enlarge His kingdom. Jesus preached. His disciples preached. Paul and his associates in ministry preached. Indeed, in Acts 2 we are even given a word-for-word account of Peter’s first sermon following the coming of the Holy Spirit, in response to which 3,000 people repented and called upon Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. Peter wasn’t “just talking.” Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit and was moved to present a powerful message—the message of the gospel—and to challenge those within the sound of his voice to call upon Jesus and be saved.
Today, the preaching of the gospel is every bit as important to those hearing it two millennia later. Each week, ministers of the gospel spend time seeking the Lord’s word for His people spread across congregations worldwide, studying His word, praying over the preparation of the message, and inviting God’s Spirit to change hearts through the preaching of His word. It is that same word that is “the power of God unto salvation, to all who believe.” (Romans 1:16) Powerful things happen when the Word of God is preached in corporate settings, without interruption or distraction. That power is in the God’s Word itself, not in the mere words of a preacher addressing a congregation. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
Although small groups and Bible studies offer great opportunities for people to ask their individual questions, such settings should not (and cannot) replace the preaching of the Word by ministers equipped by the Holy Spirit to present the gospel to those yet to know Christ and to instruct in righteousness those who already follow Christ. (See 2 Timothy 3:16) For me personally, I need to hear the regular and frequent preaching of the Word. And I want to hear what God puts on the heart of my pastor to share with our congregation. One of the most spiritually enriching times of my week is the time spent in my own church fellowship’s worship service hearing that message. Needless to say, there will always be novel ideas about modernizing the typical church service experience or making it more attractive to the potential attendee. But such changes cannot come at the expense of a biblical lynchpin such as the preaching of the Bible.
Back to the web piece above, perhaps the underlying issue was boredom with the status quo—the weekly sermon. If you are feeling like you’re losing interest in your pastor’s sermons, however, or you find yourself “tuning out,” it likely is an indication of spiritual decay. Ask God to change your heart. He will give you a passion not only to read and consume His word in your personal devotion time, but also to hear it preached and taught by His messengers on a regular basis. He will give new life to your lifeless “sermon time,” and will take your Sunday worship service experience to a new level. And, oh yeah … make sure you are connected to and engaged in a strong small group, where you can explore your Bible and faith questions within a Christ-centered community. As recipients of a good and loving Heavenly Father, we can have both!