In Defense of Preaching

We have all heard people say things like, “Oh my gosh, let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a sermon” or “Don’t be ‘preachy’ when you tell them.”  I consider such comments par for the course in our society. But I also feel it detracts from what, when done right, is an art form.  To criticize preaching, in general, would be like criticizing singing.  Some of it is terrible, but some of it is not just good, it can help us to see things in new ways.

Today, at the Presbytery of South Louisiana meeting, the Reverend Neale Miller preached.  The name of his sermon was “Downsizing?” and I won’t begin to attempt to recapture it here.  I would be unable to.  I simply encourage anyone interested in the ministry of the church to request a copy from him at Lakeview Presbyterian.

But I use it to explain what you could not do with this sermon.  You could not turn it into an eight minute sermon.  You could not relay the same message by showing movie clips.  A Powerpoint would not enhance it.  It didn’t need a play or a skit in the middle of it.  It was simply an exercise in proclamation that you cannot shrink, illustrate, or dramatize.  It was proclamation that required an oral delivery by a skilled orator. He developed a focus (a central point) and a function (something for those listening to do with the information) that only that method of delivery could accomplish.

People complain that we cannot listen for as long as former generations. We have computers. We have videos. We have Youtube. We have the internet. And we just cannot listen for that long to someone simply talking.

I don’t accept this. I think that if we choose to do so, we can easily listen to someone far longer, and if we use our brains, we can receive concepts and thoughts that we otherwise cannot if we “downsize the medium of delivery” (to borrow on the title of his sermon).

This certainly is not a defense of all sermons. I know it is most challenging to listen for 20 minutes to someone drone on. But much like listening to a new CD or trying out new restaurants, if you invest the time, you may find “gold in them there hills” (just to mix more than a few metaphors).

Kudos to Neale for an excellent sermon today. I hope that you will encourage others to listen to a few and to point out the good ones that we all need to hear.

Until next time,

Tom

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