Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The "Purpose" of a Sermon

I heard a sermon recently about Joseph, the husband of Mary. The message, in a nutshell, was all about courage. Joseph was a man of courage and faith. We ought also to be people of courage. We ought also to have faith. You get the idea. Now, it's my funny little notion that sermons ought to be primarily about the business of revealing the heart of God. In other words, after we hear a good sermon, some aspect of the character of God and of His plan for me and for all creation is made more clear, more vivid to my imagination, better understood intellectually and, yes, more deeply-felt in my heart than before. In other words, a sermon should help us to "know God."

The primary purpose of a sermon, then, is not exhortation. It's not, "you should be brave," or "you should be loving," or "you should have faith," etc. These exhortative sermons leave me feeling rather ornery. Pastors, by all means preach about Joseph, yes indeed, but let your ultimate purpose be to show us God's heart, not Joseph's. And then, if you have preached the truth, you will have helped to make me, perhaps, a little more courageous, faithful, loving, etc.

BTW, for a similar point of view, see The Bible is a Book about God, from Theocentric Preaching.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

suggesting others change is very easily accomplished simply by the fact that no change will be required by the person suggesting or more often demanding another person change. changing ourselves,something requiring effort, determination and discipline on our OWN part is considerably more challenging

Weekend Fisher said...

From your synopsis in the sermon about Joseph, I'd say the framing was wrong. Joseph's courage does not rightly stand apart from God's encouragement which created that courage in Joseph. Neither can ours.

Take care & God bless

Anonymous said...

Knowing about God's heart is good, but Jesus did not call us simply to know. He calls us to follow. How to follow Him in our daily lives can be a challenge, so understanding how others -- such as Joseph -- applied a willingness to follow to circumstances can be helpful.

Iambic Admonit said...

Well, there ought to be an exhortative aspect to sermons -- or, put another way, some sermons no & again must be exhortative -- but the primary purpose of sermons is to be exegetical. To expound the Word of God in clear language. Yes, to reveal the heart of God. And to exhort His people to believe Him & trust Him as He said. But not (and this is what I think the Joseph thing was) to be nice little peices of stories to make us feel better or worse without any theological meat. Yes?

Bob said...

Hi Iambic: Yes, I agree that exhortation has its place, without a doubt. The epistles of the NT, wheter of Paul, Peter, James, etc., are often exhortative. But as has often been pointed out, Paul for example always clearly bases his imperatives on a prior clear laying out of the nature of what God has done for us in Christ.

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