Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FW: Fifteen Things Not to Do in a Sermon


On Preaching…


Feed: Stand Firm
Posted on: Monday, December 05, 2011 4:00 AM
Author: Scott Diekmann
Subject: Fifteen Things Not to Do in a Sermon


Here's a short list of fifteen things not to do in a sermon, compiled after watching the video of a sermon preached at an LCMS church. The context of this "message" was the completion of the congregation's study of Pastor Rick Warren's book The Purpose-Driven Life. If you doubted President Harrison's lament about the quality of preaching in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, doubt no more. I'm certain this preacher is doing what he thinks is best, yet his limited liturgical toolbox makes too frequent a use of the Law, and in a way that it wasn't meant to be used, as a pry bar.  All quotes are direct quotes from the sermon.


The List of Fifteen Things Not to Do in a Sermon:

  1. Begin the sermon with "Uh, hey."
  2. Start out with your hands in your pockets – this problem is easily solved by wearing liturgical vestments.
  3. Cede your pastoral duty to rightly handle the Word of Truth by allowing Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, to catechize your flock.
  4. Talk about your pretty awesome-sounding new drum set that is an investment in the growth of the Kingdom for which your parishioners forsook "spending money on vacations or cars or stuff" to purchase – a thought which directly reflects the pietism taught in The Purpose-Driven Life.
  5. Say that life is simply a preparation for eternity, destroying God's wonderful First Article gifts of vocation and Creation by saying "And the fact is there's more to life than the here and the now, there's more to this life than your mundane job, there's more to this life than just the family you have at home, and whether or not you eat dinner together, whether or not your car runs." This is, again, more Rick Warren pietism.
  6. Distract your hearers the whole time by waving about the paper outline that's stuck to your hand.
  7. Expound The Purpose-Driven Life concept of "worship," which is to bring God pleasure – a complete dismantling of sacramental Lutheran theology: "I was planned for God's pleasure so I have to worship."
  8. Have the congregants raise their hand during the sermon if they've been involved in a growth group.
  9. Teach that we grow spiritually through commitments, and that it takes more than just sitting and listening in church to grow. "You have to take it to the next level."
  10. Spend part of your fleeting sermon time talking about upcoming church scheduling logistics and growth opportunities.
  11. Teach that blessing comes from doing the purposes of God as though God is the fast food drive-thru window attendant: Hand Him a good work, get back a steaming-hot blessing - in eternity of course.
  12. Use Alcoholics Anonymous quotes in the sermon: "If you want to keep it, you've got to give it away."
  13. Treat the sermon like you're teaching Bible class.
  14. Actually push your parishioners to study The Purpose-Driven Life and take it to heart, a book which is a perversion of Law and Gospel.
  15. Forget to kill and make alive through the power of God's Word – otherwise you're just wasting your time and their time.

This sermon was in line with the theology of Rick Warren - an Evangelical synergistic pietism. I listened to a second sermon about Christmas preached by the same person, thinking that an escape from the Rick Warren mindset on his part might improve things. There was no "comfort ye, comfort ye my people" given. The outline, a downloadable pdf, contains thirteen blank spots for the parishioners to fill in as the sermon progresses.

The first three blanks read "I MUST _________________." The next seven blanks:

1. __________________________ FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY
4. __________________________________________SOMEONE
5 _______________________________________ TO SOMEONE

The last three blanks:

I MUST ______________________________________.
MY PART: ____________________________________.
GOD'S PART: _________________________________.

You fill in the blanks. It seems that our part is very large, and God's part very small. Kyrie eleison.

Note: After completing the rough draft of this blog post, I went to the LCMS website to check on this person's "credentials." He wasn't listed. After Googling his name I discovered that he is a Specific Ministry Program (SMP) Vicar. Hopefully you'll forgive the oversight. The church's website calls him Pastor John Doe, not Vicar John Doe.

Vicars should not be held to the same preaching standards as an ordained pastor. I can understand if a vicar doesn't have a polished "delivery." However, while some of them may only be fledgling theologians, they should know the difference between Law and Gospel. With seminary training of some sort fresh in this vicar's mind, he doesn't have the years of experience as a few of our more seasoned pastors have, with which to "forget" his confessional Lutheran training for a more desirable paramour.

I don't think it would be fair to reveal this person's identity.  Perhaps someone will have a word with his supervisor, so that Advent will become a blessing rather than a curse.

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