I have often wondered why, generally speaking, mainline churches seem to be satisfied with briefer sermons while newer unaffiliated churches thrive on messages that can easily hit the 45 minute mark without an audience yawn or impatient watch glance. Perhaps it is due to audience profile? Or is it the inclusion of a video element? But the contrast is obvious to me: one seems to be a culture of endurance and the other a culture of expectation. And the irony is this: the mainline Protestant church has a rich history of emphasis on education and the primacy of Biblical preaching; the newer congregation has likely never even heard of the Reformation or any great preachers.
Enough of the self-serving lamentations! Here are three reasons why we need a sermon:
1. It accompanies a relationship with Jesus. Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” YOKED SO AS TO LEARN! Jesus will pull most of the load while we apprentice under him. Everyone chooses someone from whom they will learn life (parents, college professors, work colleagues, drug addicts, TV characters, Oprah, Dr. Phil …). The question is: who will be your lab partner in life? The sermon is one of the vehicles where instruction by Jesus becomes possible.
2. It comforts the soul. The same verse tells us that the yoke with Jesus provides rest for our souls. The yoke of the Pharisees was heavy and burdensome. It condemned but did not comfort. And it was highly unlikely that a Pharisee was going to put any effort into helping you stay holy! I have said before that the church is like a ‘boot camp’ for training and a ‘launching pad’ for mission. But there are times when church needs to be ‘a spa for the soul’. The sermon plays an important role in all of these functions.
3. It brings us to maturity. Colossians 1:28 “We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching with all wisdom, so that all may be presented mature in Him.” The image is one of being escorted into the presence of God, complete and whole. The Greek concept of perfect was virtually unattainable – without flaw or blemish, ideal. The Hebrew concept of perfect was one of fulfilled purpose, our intended destiny. Hence the use of the English word, “mature”. Now the role of the sermon – because this maturity comes through admonishing and teaching – is elevated. IT IS NOT SOMETHING TO BE ENDURED, BUT SOMETHING TO BE ANTICIPATED!