Barrett Case pastors in Rich Hill, MO.
I just preached a bad sermon. Well, let me clarify: during this particular sermon, about 70% of the congregation seemed to fall asleep or check-out mentally; others opted to go see if the nursery needed help (true story). It was a deflating experience for a pastor whose main task each week is preaching. And it was a humbling experience for a pastor whose previous sermon was well-received and highly-praised.
So I just preached a bad sermon. It happens. In fact, I’d say it happens every fourth or fifth time I stand behind that old, wooden pulpit. From my limited perspective, bad sermons are fairly commonplace. But here’s the thing: what I feel is a bad sermon and what is actually a bad sermon might be different things.
There are “sermons” preached throughout the country each weekend that are highly-praised and well-received by some 40,000 people who gather in old professional basketball stadiums—but these aren’t good sermons. There are great sermons that are preached by my friends to their churches of 50-60, but those sermons won’t be regarded as “just as good as that guy on TV.”
Here’s the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon: faithfulness to the text of the Bible.
The church I am privileged to serve has doubled in size in the last 5 years. Don’t worry; I’m not trying to impress you. I mention the doubling in order to point to what I believe to be the reason: a clear emphasis on Biblical preaching.
For better or worse, for the duration of my time at the little church where I preach, I have preached through one book of the Bible at a time. So far, we’ve studied Matthew (3 years), Judges (1 year), Ruth (6 weeks), and James (6 months), one section at time. Now we’re chipping away at some of the Psalms.
My main concern in preaching is not necessarily to entertain or inspire. My concern is opening up the Word of God and expounding on what has been recorded and preserved for us in its pages.
My sermons put my secretary to sleep every week. No joke. She’s a dear woman, just a little sleepy. Her snoring doesn’t bother me, but one of these Sundays she’s going to fall out of her pew and really blow my concentration. Her sleeping through my sermon and all the others who are otherwise checked-out used to really bother me. It still bothers my tiny, little ego and hurts my delicate feelings more than I’d like to admit. But from a theological standpoint, I am un-phased.
I believe that God continue to operate as He has down throughout the ages. The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation (Romans 1:16). This hasn’t changed, nor will it. Paul asks a few chapters later: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14-15)
What is needed in Paul’s day is needed in ours: faithful preachers preaching the Bible. It’d be great to be someone’s favorite preacher. I’d love to be invited to speak at conferences and seminars, to grace the stage on the youth conference circuit. No one has asked me to write a book about preaching or my “success” as a pastor, and I don’t expect that phone call anytime soon. But I have committed myself to the faithful preaching of the Bible. I commend to my flock that the Bible—the only inspired book, the very Word of God—is what they need, what I need, what we need.
I am a firm believer in the inspiration, power, and sufficiency of Scripture. I’ve witnessed how the Bible has changed lives, rescued people from the muck and the mire, saved scores of lost souls, restored marriages, and cured addictions. And this happens through the proclaimed Word of God as faithful men preach and teach what God has clearly said.
The tall tale of a young boy who journeyed to heaven and back is cute—heretical, but cute. The imaginative writings of two men about how the end of the world is going to shake out made for some very popular (awful) books and some dreadful movies. This football movie and that firefighter flick are nice, I’m sure.
However, God gave us a book. We have the single most incredible and powerful resource sitting on our coffee tables and bookshelves. Many people have more than one sitting around. I’ve got a whole shelf filled with them in different translations and in a few different languages.
Do we realize what the Bible is? Do we realize what a gift it is to hear from God via the men who preach His Word? It’s foolishness, really, but it’s what He ordained. I am utterly convinced that a sermon that is faithful to the text of the Bible will do what nothing else can. God will use His Word to convict people of sin, to turn many to repentance, to bring His kingdom to earth, to mobilize the Church.
So Church—thank your pastors for preaching the Word. Pray for them that they would continue to preach the Word in a time that makes it increasingly difficult.
Pastors/preachers—for goodness sake, preach the Word. Commit yourself to proclaiming what God has written. You might put a few people to sleep, but you will probably see God bring many sons and daughters to glory through this foolish act.
I just preached a “bad sermon.” But I trust that God’s Word will accomplish what it pleases.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:8