Two weeks back I wrote a post titled, “5 Things I Want to Hear in a Sermon.” This week I’m writing a follow-up-post. The same premise applies today. That is, as a regular pastor I get excited about the occasional opportunity to “go” to church with my family, and I truly anticipate being able to listen to biblical preaching with my family. While there are certain things I do want to hear on these occasional Sundays, there are also a number of things I don’t want to hear. Here’s my top 5:
- Your Opinion with Proof Texts … As a preacher, I can spot this a mile away. My guess is, your people can, too. I don’t want to hear your hot take, personal opinion, or individual preference. I want to hear the living Word of God! I’m not giving up my only Sunday off to listen to your soap-box-rant with a handful of Bible verses tacked on to the end. I want to hear the Bible.
- Politics of Any Flavor … This isn’t a Republican thing or a Democrat thing. This isn’t a conservative thing or a liberal thing. This isn’t even a Trump thing or an Obama thing. Unless your political pontification centers on Jesus Christ the King of kings, I’m not interested. I didn’t come to celebrate a country or wave flag, I came to celebrate the Lord of lords, Jesus the Son of God.
- Stories Where You are the Hero … I’m sure you’ve done some pretty awesome things in your life, and maybe there’s a place for sharing those stories. The pulpit is not that place. Be self-deprecating all you want, just don’t try to sell me on your greatness. Talk about heroes from church history or heroes in your congregation, just don’t tell stories that make you look like a hero.
- Nostalgia about Church … I didn’t come to listen to you stroll down memory lane. I don’t want to hear about the good-old-days. For one thing, they weren’t that good. For another thing, they’re gone. I don’t mind honesty about our current state of affairs, and I’d love to dream about a God-honoring future. But let’s not wax nostalgic about the good old days you miss so much.
- Made-up Stories … Maybe I’m just getting cranky and need to stop. Maybe this is just a personal pet peeve. But I just don’t like made-up stories that preachers try to pass off as real. Usually these stories are supposed to illustrate or bolster a point in the message. I’m just not sure how a made-up story about non-existent people who find themselves in imaginary situations adds anything to the Bible.
Whether you’re a pastor or a church member, I’d love to know what you think of this list? Anything you would add?
Hey, I’m right there with you on #5. It really blows it with me if I suspect that a speaker just fabricates a story for illustrative reasons and pawns it off as if it really happened. However, “made-up story about non-existent people who find themselves in imaginary situations” sounds remarkably close to a definition of “parable.” And we all know Who used parables to very telling effect. Perhaps your key phrase is “pass them off as real.” I think that our Lord’s audiences were well aware that when He started out with “a certain man did such and such” this was His cultural shorthand for “OK, a parable is coming…” and thereby both He and they knew that He was not relating an actual, historical event. My point is that if modern preachers were wise enough to use “made-up” stories LIKE HE DID — willing to admit up front the non-historical nature of their narratives — then made-up stories would not be such a peeve for thee and me.
Agree, parables ok, illustrations from fiction books and movies ok … dopey stories that just happen to fit your point that we all know aren’t real but get passed off as real – I’ll pass.
I would add:
* Thompson Chain style references to specific translations which “prove” a ministry point.
* Anything that doesn’t incorporate exposition of the selected text.
* Too much reliance upon PowerPoint or other visual.
Agree. Agree. Agree.
Maybe I get more hung up on the delivery sometimes. Grandstanding, over acting and driving points home as if his life depended on it.
Maybe, also, the opposite is true. I don’t like someone delivering the message that is so laid back that he spends the majority of the time visiting about pop culture and trying to appeal to the “every man”.
Agree. Delivery matters.
Darrell and I moved to Beaumont one year ago and began visiting churches. We have always carried a note pad we use to take sermon notes each week. When we left a church with a blank page it was clear the sermon was filled with the above list and totally lacking the Bible. If this had been our first opportunity to hear the truth of the gospel, we left that day and still hadn’t heard it! We moved on. I am not there to learn more about you or your church programs. I am there to hear God’s Word.
Church “hunting” is rough. Great thoughts – empty notebooks is a bad sign!