Last week I was privileged to team-teach with my son-in-law Rob Fultz a university class in Theology of Ministry. We sat in a circle with students soon to graduate and enter full-time ministry. Their questions and observations drove to the heart and passion of pastoral care.
Central in the discussion was the theme of sermons. We talked about what a sermon is, how and when to plan a sermon, delivery, importance of the preacher believing in the message, different types of sermons, difference between preaching and teaching, etc.
We talked about the sermons they are preaching while being students, i.e., what they do and do not do to best reveal Christ in their lives.
Spurgeon of England was a Baptist preacher who died in 1892. Yet his written sermons speak powerfully to our current generation. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was not delivered from a pulpit in a church, but possibly by Him sitting on a stone on the side of a mountain.
A pulpit is a sacred place. In traditional Orthodox churches there were two pulpits. One was for laypeople. The other pulpit was for the minister and the sermon. The one for the sermon was usually up a set of stairs that positioned the minister looking down on the congregants.
The physical pulpit does not speak. It is but a fixture representing for the moment a place to deliver a message. The pulpit is wherever the message of Jesus is shared with another person.
Jesus preached a sermon to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).
Philip preached a sermon in a chariot to an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8). Paul preached a sermon at Athens, Greece in the midst of idols (Acts 17). Elijah preached a sermon on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18).
Peter preached in a public forum—no church building—on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Place: University of Virginia Hospital.
Patient: A saintly man with terminal stomach cancer.
Scenario: I stood with his children as they received the news of his imminent departure from this life. One of his daughters immediately became distraught. Her father from the last bed he would ever occupy in this life spoke sternly to her: “If you are going to be upset,” he said, “Please leave the room. You do not understand,” (he looked from one to the other of his children), “I have been serving the Lord for many years. It is time to leave and be with My Lord. This is not a time for grieving but rejoicing.”
In the quietness that followed I, a pastor, shared with him: “My Brother, this is your pulpit. You have just preached a more powerful sermon from this hospital bed than I have ever preached from a church pulpit!”
A sermon may be to one person.
A sermon may be to a 1,000+ persons.
A sermon may be long.
A sermon may be short.
A sermon may be loud.
A sermon may be in a soft voice.
A former parishioner of Covenant was from a country where being a Christian could bring flogging, imprisonment or death. She shared that Christians worshipped in whispers including the sermon.
There is only minor distinction between a teacher teaching and a preacher preaching. A sermon should always have a persuasive element encouraging a decision of the heart to make a change. A lesson is informative, i.e., may enrich, but not require any change of values or social modification. Biblical teaching is truth that will produce change.
A teacher may share insights and knowledge gained by the teacher. A preacher’s ultimate goal is to point people to Christ and to choose a disciplined life.
I have preached sermons on street corners in New York City, in jails, hospitals, nursing homes, mental health institutions, elderly care facilities, schools, youth camps, churches, on airplanes, in cars, ad infinitum.
A sermon can be implied without words. The presence of a church building in a community is a moral statement of a Holy God to those who pass by.
Every believer is called to share sermons on the Road of Life as we encounter other travelers. Christ in us speaks to others who are lost, lonely and hopeful to find their way home to the Creator of their souls.
My prayer is that Covenant Church’s sermon, in whatever form and place we share it, will be one to shake our community, stir our city and help to send the gospel around the world.
My prayer is that as we move towards the FINISH of the construction that will bring us to a place to let our sermon be heard by more people resulting in a greater harvest.
I hope you are preaching powerfully.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, since you know the you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23,24).
P.S. Laila and I have had a powerful week. The Lord has granted us the privilege of touching many lives in the Name of Jesus! We look forward to seeing you Sunday.