Recently I heard comments second-hand from come of my members that they were not coming to church (or coming regularly) because they “get nothing out of the sermon.” This elicited some discussion in a meeting at the church. I was frustrated because it was impossible to either address or amend something without specifics. What was lacking that caused them to “get nothing out of the sermon”? No one could put their finger on it exactly.
Predictably I went home with a mixture of frustration and self-critical despondency. The only concrete point mentioned was in regard to my delivery, namely that I use a manuscript. Was I too bound to the text making my delivery come off as wooden? Was I failing to make it interesting with nice modern illustrations? Was I too “deep” and losing people? Or was I simply just to general and dry? I don’t know.
Then I ran across a discussion on preaching over on McCain’s blog entitled “True and False Christ.” You should check it out with the comments as well. Interesting piece to make you think. Dr. Schmidt also challenged pastors to get away from the manuscript. However, the discussion wasn’t so much about delivery (that was incidental), it was about the use of Law in preaching today and the danger of antinomianism. I am still processing this, but I am going to take time to read more of Luther's own sermons. I think there is much to be gained from this.
As my bio to the left shows, I have been in the ministry for almost two decades. It is easy to fall into ruts and to perpetuate one’s errors and mistakes without real self-critical examination. Every pastor needs to examine his preaching constantly. Yes, it is tough to do. Our egos do not like this. And it should be noted that not every criticism is valid. Many people love a sermon that simply “tickles their ears,” as the apostle would say. We cannot give into this. Still, is our preaching everything the Gospel demands? Are we working at this task that is supposed to be one of our greatest? This is the ongoing question……