If you have attended church for any length of time you have been there – that sermon that you sat through while looking at your watch thinking, “When is this guy going to shut up?” The question becomes, “Is that a spiritual question or secular one?”
When it comes to preaching, how should the message be delivered? Is it reverent to speak in a monotone voice? Are those who use modern visual arts in sin because they use “secular means” to share the Gospel?
First, can we agree that the Gospel of Jesus is the most important story there is? It is the life-changing power of Christ that frees people from their sins and gives them eternal life through faith in Him. If this is true, I agree with what I heard at the Acts 16:5 Conference a few years ago (lead by Mark Stuenzi and David Whiting): if the gospel is the most important story, we should be excited in the way that we share it.
A case study in Scripture on preaching, Acts 20 shares a story of the apostle Paul and Eutychus (hey, maybe that name will catch on in 2017). Paul is preaching and Eutychus is sitting on a window sill listening. He falls asleep, falls out of the window, hits the ground and kerplunk, is dead. While I have had parishioners say they fall asleep while listening to my sermons online sometimes (no seriously, a person told me that once, haha), I don’t think my preaching has ever killed anyone.
I can hear that preacher of old saying to teenagers about this passage, “When you feel God’s Word is boring, there are consequences. God’s Word is alive, and this man should have been paying attention, or he would not have died.” Spiritual people clap and say, ”Amen,” and go home.
But is this really how the story goes? Several verses later we read how Paul performs a miracle, and brings Eutychus back from the dead. If death were a punishment for falling asleep during “church,” why would Paul have brought him back from the dead? Is it possible that it may have partially been Paul’s fault for being a little long-winded?
While I don’t think we need to turn church into a circus to get people to pay attention, there are things a pastor can do to reach people with the message. Some of these may include stories as illustrations, pictures, PowerPoint, art, listening to a song, moving around while talking (instead of just standing behind a pulpit), or maybe even showing a movie clip. We are not talking about entertaining people, we are talking about engaging them.
My goal has always been to preach a message in a way that would have engaged me as a teenager. As someone who was a little ADD and may have counted tiles in the church auditorium during sermons more than once, I hope to share the message of Jesus Christ in a way that is exciting, fresh, and can be remembered by those who hear it.
Pastor, don’t kill your people with boring preaching. If God’s Word is alive, act like it when you speak. To those who are listening, come with a heart attitude of, “how can I get to know God better today.” I think the attitude we bring will impact the way we hear as well.
BOOKS ON THE TOPIC: Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell; Why Johnny Can’t Preach: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake by T. David Gordon; The 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by McDill
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.