Thursday, February 26, 2009

A sermonless church

What would happen if we removed the sermon from our weekly order of service? We could add a couple more songs in its place, maybe throw in a skit or some other artistic demonstration, have more time for prayer and fellowship, and still get out early.

To many, a sermonless church may sound like a good idea. It would make the service shorter, more entertaining, and probably more appealing to unbelievers. It would give pastors more time during the week for planning, programs, and visitation. But in so doing, the church would kill itself. A sermonless church is like a rootless tree. It will eventually dry up and rot because it has lost its source of spiritual nourishment.

Of course, most churches do not omit the sermon, but rather shorten it, simplify it, or approach it in such a way that it has lost its centrality within our worship. Many church members have even learned to "tune out" at this point in the service.

My friend Bret Capranica offers a good list today of what happens when preaching loses its place of centrality within the life of the local church:

  • Personal intake of Scripture becomes tiresome
  • Personal prayer becomes little more than religious day-dreaming
  • An atmosphere of worship gives way to a craving for entertainment
  • Truth is replaced with preferences
  • Discipleship is dismissed by the cult of personal excitement
  • Culture becomes central
  • Creativity becomes a mantra
  • Personal desires become dominant
  • Tradition becomes foundational
  • Counseling becomes, at worst, psychological, and at best merely conservative Dr. Laura-type of advice or simply relational
  • Fellowship becomes superficial
  • Unity becomes merely relational
  • Missions becomes nothing more than temporal societal betterment
  • The gospel becomes self-help
  • Discipleship becomes nothing more than a mere decision

All this will be true because people, for people’s sake, become the focus and God becomes a servant to their own lust for centrality (2 Timothy 4:1-4) – our thoughts are no longer tethered to what God has systematically revealed to us about Himself. In the end, people are not best served where they are most prized.

When expository preaching is not central in our life:

  • We ultimately and over time won’t feel fed, satisfied, fulfilled
  • The grass will always look greener in another ministerial field

    …because ultimately, God, truth, and His glory is not what we crave. Or perhaps we are misinterpreting our cravings and feeding them with the wrong things.

When expository preaching is not central in the church’s life

  • It will give way to the whims of culture
  • It will be replaced by the mystical
  • It will be sapped of true spiritual power
  • It will be shallow in terms of spiritual depth
  • It will be empty of the Glory and majesty of God
The pastor or teacher who fails to feed his flock regularly is doing them a tremendous disservice, slowly starving them to death.

For a recent message I preached on How to Listen to a Sermon and get the most out of God's word, you can listen to my podcast here.

Photo credit: ConspiracyofHappiness

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