I Hate Sermons

There, I said it.

I hate sermons. That doesn't mean I don't value good teaching. It just means I think good sermons don't always equal good teaching. In an era obsessed with entertainment, we've let a captivating public speaker become more important than letting the Bible capture our imaginations.

Ask many leading pastors today, and you'll find them spending as much time studying stand-up comedians as they do the Scriptures. Not because they're looking for help getting their bad jokes to land (unfortunately); no, they're trying to learn how to grab an audience's attention and keep it.

This is why I hate them. Most of the sermons I've heard aren't about Scripture as much as alliterated points that don't fit the text, a mashup of current events awkwardly juxtaposed to random elements in a passage, or no less than three examples from the pastor's life that over-illustrate a really simple point. Sometimes I just want to yell:
Hey, preacher man, can you read us the Bible! I don't care about how your dog's devotion reminds you that God is our best friend! Or how people are like trucks--we all need tune-ups from time to time! This is a sermon, not a country song!
On rare occasions, the text is given priority. Or, I should say, the pastor's attempt at scholarship. But, as I've said before, flexing your Hebrew and Greek muscles on a Sunday morning does not constitute a sermon.

It shouldn't surprise me that sermons have lost their focus because pastors have too. I wrote a piece last year about why I think people are leaving the church (here), and in it I called out pastors for spending more time on their sermons than shepherding their flocks. Perhaps your church is blessed with an associate pastor who does the senior pastor's job for him. Sadly, most are without such a luxury. And this approach to pastoring (the lots of teaching and no discipling kind) is like trying to feed sheep with a fire hose while ignoring their other basic necessities like grooming and rest.

At least our worship services have the right focus, assuming that the Eucharist is at the center of it. If not, then it would appear that sermon obsession has hijacked not only your pastor's time, but your entire church's, as well. We weren't commanded to observe many rituals. So it always surprises me how many churches will highlight a pastor who doesn't tend his flock and a sermon that doesn't attend to Scripture instead of one of the only two commands we were given.

But at least we have their attention. We may have removed all of the things that are peculiar to our faith, but we have their attention.


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