For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Recently, one of The Lutheran Hour listeners wrote in, offering me some constructive criticism and, at the same time, sharing some of their rules for successful preaching. In that list were things like, remember,
* there are bad sermons and short sermons, but there are no bad short sermons;
* the purpose of a great sermon is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The latter is preferable to the former;
* when the congregation starts to lose interest and begins to doze off, you can awaken them by saying loudly, "And finally ..." or "In conclusion ...." This will only work about four times in each sermon;
* have a good opening point. Have a good closing point. Keep the two as close together as possible;
* follow the example of the rooster. One day when one of his hens shared her desire to lay an egg in the middle of an expressway, he took her to the edge of the road and gave her this advice: "Make it quick, and lay it on the line!"
I appreciate his comments. I even agree with most of them. Sadly, there are preachers on television and radio whose messages disturb me. No, the problem is not that they preach too long. When you're on the air, your sermon must be a certain length. If you're not done in the allotted number of minutes, some engineer, somewhere, is going to pull your plug, and move on to the next program. No, time isn't the problem with these broadcasters.
Ego seems to be their difficulty.
When I hear a preacher talk more about his ministry than the blood of Jesus, something is radically wrong. When I watch a program or listen to a broadcast and the Name of Jesus is never mentioned, something is wrong. When I listen to 20 minutes of a message and never once does the preacher say anything about our sinfulness and how repentant hearts can be forgiven through the Savior's love, His life of sacrifice, His death and resurrection, there's something wrong.
The truth is if a message doesn't center on the hope we have through God's perfect Son, then that message is off-kilter. That message may be amusing, interesting, fun, intriguing, and it may convey a number of truths, but that message is off-kilter because it does not give us the one truth every sinner needs to hear and every real sermon must convey:
Only in God's innocent Son are we given hope; only in the living Lord Jesus is our redemption and salvation made possible.
This is why St. Paul offers his rule for preachers and for all who must listen to them: "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5).
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, accept my thanks for those pastors and teachers who preach not themselves, but Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Bless them and Your message they convey to a sinful world. This I ask in the Savior's Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries