Today – the next 24 hours – will see many sermons preached in many different places around the world. Men and women of God will stand to declare the Word of the Lord for the people they are addressing. It will be a now word, a relevant message, well written. Prayer played a major role in the writing of it. It was researched properly, meditated upon, thought through. God was consulted constantly through the initial research, rough notes stage, and the final writing. He will be seriously involved in the proclaiming of it for it is His Word and it never comes back to Him void but always accomplishes what He sends it forth to do.
However, some people will sleep through these fine teachings. Others will pay little if any attention. Some will read the Sunday bulletin, others will work with their Blackberry answering emails or with their cell phones sending and receiving text messages. Those who do listen will forget most of what they heard and apply none of it. Those who brought a Bible to the Church service and followed along will remember more and apply some. Those who followed along in their Bible and took notes will benefit the most – probably remembering 10% of what is said and applying a small portion of that to their daily life, if any.
What is the problem here? Why is so much time invested and so little gained as a result? Where is the excitement about God’s Word? Why are believers not hungry to hear what God is saying? How come we are at the point of treating God’s Word as one option in the many options we hear daily – and not one that gets top billing but is usually only considered when everything in your life is going south? Do we think the preacher is an idiot? Do we think God is totally out of touch with our needs and our world? Do we no longer believe that the Bible is the Word of God and thus relevant to daily life?
I like what Brother Yun (of The Heavenly Man) had to say recently:
“I have found it doesn’t really matter how much you preach in most churches, because the majority of believers have become ‘sermon proof’. They have listened to thousands of sermons and have become experts at tuning out. Their minds and hearts are far away. They have been conditioned to listen to speeches rather than to respond to the power of the gospel and be changed.”
I think that he has a point there. We are treating God’s Word – or, at least, the sermon – as a speech inparting information that we can keep or discard, listen to or ignore, believe or discount and write off as simply opinion. We are seeing this ‘speech’ as an exchange of information. We are listening (when we do) simply to someone talking.
Instead the sermon should be approached as a time when God’s Spirit through the Word of God will bring transformation – much more than an impartation of information. We should recognize and acknowledge that it is the Gospel that is being preached and that there is power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change – transform – permanently alter -a person’s life supernaturally.
In both my home church where I preach regularly and in the churches I minister in by invitation on a regular basis I notice people doing all of the above – Blackberry, cell phone, bulletin – as well as sleeping. Often it is the younger people who nod off and not the older ones. Here’s another problem.
They cared enough to come and worship with other believers. But, they did not prepare their hearts, souls, minds, and BODIES for the service and the hearing of the Word. They did not go to bed early enough to wake up on Sunday morning refreshed, alert, and alive. They did not take time in God’s Word each day of the week and then, on Sunday morning, prepare to hear God’s message to the assembly by talking a few minutes to examine their hearts, repent and receive forgiveness. They do not value the Word of God (being preached) and the preacher (honoring, respecting) enough to pepare ahead of time to get maximum bang for their buck.
And then we wonder why, in most cases, the Church in North America is anemic and weak, impotent and shuffled, by most, to the sidelines of life. We need to begin to “hunger and thirst after righteousness”. That would be one step in the right direction and would go a long way to correcting the problem.