Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thoughts on Sermons

Thanks to the fact that I teach at a seminary, I have the Logos Bible Software Scholar's Edition. I have noticed that any text I search on, lists of sermons come up. Now I admit, I haven't typed in Numbers 7 to see what comes up there, or 1 Chron 26:18. Nonetheless, printed sermons have been available for a long time, and have no doubt been used by less-than-scrupulou s ministers. The internet and the vast array of electronic resources have simply made the temptations worse.

At the individual level, each minister needs to commit himself to doing his own work. Now, I have no problem with a man on occasion using someone else's sermon, if he thinks it particularly appropriate, it adapts well to his own style, and he makes it clear that this is not his work. Such might even be appropriate on very special occasions. But as Andy has noted, our calling is to the ministry of the Word and prayer. Sermons written by someone else will never be ours regardless of whether on a technical level the sermon is better than one we might have prepared and delivered from the same text. It pleases God through the foolishness of preaching to save the lost and to edify the saints. That means that he uses earthen vessels for this task. Our calling is not: be Spurgeon! be J. M. Boice! be R. C. Sproul! be Jonathan Edwards! Instead my calling is: be Benjamin Shaw. Let his Word dwell in you richly, and let it come out from within as a result of your own study, prayer, and meditation on the text.

Perhaps the reason that "borrowed" sermons have become a greater problem is not their greater availability, but the loss of the sense of the importance of preaching. If preaching is old-fashioned, out-of-date, not where the action is; if the "real" life of the church is in the worship team, or the small-group ministries, or in anything but the preached Word of God, then what does it matter whose sermon I preach?

At the presbytery level, I can think of only one thing that will work to fix the problem (assuming it is a problem in our presbyteries) . That would be unannounced visitation of churches in the presbytery by other members of the presbytery. In other words, on any given Sunday, the pastor at 123 Presbyterian Church should know that 2-3 members of presbytery might show up in the service that morning, having found out ahead of time what the text for the morning is, and having researched to some extent the sermonic material that is out there, so they might be able to spot a canned sermon. Of course, that probably falls under the category of "meddling."

3 comments:

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Stushie said...

If presbytery show up unnannounced, I would expect Michael Palin and the Monty Python crew to be there too. After all, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Y Cymro said...

As you know, the two chief weapons of Prsebytery are ... fear and suprise, suprise and fear ... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Westminster Standards...