Jump Start # 2315
2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
Preach the word—the avenue to do that is what we call sermons. The other day I was out driving about listening to some of my favorite songs. The group, “The Eagles,” was on the radio. Love the song that was being played. I’ve seen the Eagles in concert. I’ve heard the song on the radio so many times, I know the words by heart. When I saw them live, I hoped that they would sing this song. They did. It was amazing.
That got me to thinking about sermons. I’ve been digging through some sermons finding what I want to take on the road in meetings. Sermons and songs on the radio are so different. We like hearing the same songs over and over. But we want each sermon to be an original. The more I thought about this, I realized that about 95% of my sermons will never be preached again. A lot of hours went into those sermons and once they are preached, they get filed away and most times are never surfaced again.
Once in a while, because of heavy schedule or a very busy week, a preacher may try to sneak an oldie in, but someone usually will catch it and that makes the preacher feel guilty. To repeat a sermon makes it seem like he didn’t do his work that week. He’s getting lazy. Guilt and shame keeps most of us from every preaching the same sermons to the same crowd again. It’s ok to hear the same song on the radio over and over, but we don’t want to hear the same sermon a second time.
Here are some thoughts:
First, new sermons keeps the preacher fresh, sharp and always learning and teaching. That’s the upside to new sermons. It is easy to get lazy, but most of the preachers I know would never be accused of that. They are so busy with so many other things that laziness is not among them. Always reading. Always thinking. Always observing. Always reflecting. Growth comes that way. It’s been said that a growing church comes from a growing pulpit and a growing leadership.
Second, for preachers that have been at the same congregation for a dozen years or more, most folks wouldn’t remember those early sermons and if the church has been growing, there will be many who never heard the sermons the first time they were delivered. Many of us like to preach a special series. A lot of time when into developing those series. It would be good to hear some of those lessons again. Rather than feeling ashamed and trying to pass off an old sermon as a new one by changing the title, rearranging and renaming the points, why not be upfront about it? Better still, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the shepherds asked the preacher to bring out a series that was first preached several years ago. It’s time to connect again. The Holy Spirit, through Peter’s hands, reminded the brethren of truths that they had known and heard before.
Third, the preacher can find ways to use the truths in those sermons in other avenues. Find ways to put them in class material. Use them for the basis of articles. A few of my sermons have become Jump Starts. It’s a shame that you put so much into a sermon and then it’s done and tucked away for good. There are other means to get those principles out.
Fourth, the truth taught actually never is lost. First, in the heart of the preacher, he has learned things. These will come out as he talks to others. Second, as the audience learns, they will remember and they will change. In this age of recordings and videos, many of those sermons are heard over and over again. There was a time when a preacher delivered a sermon and it was heard one time and that was it. These days, those sermons live on and on because of technology.
Fifth, the preacher shouldn’t feel like his efforts are wasted or in vain. He pours hours into developing a sermon and then it’s over. He may never preach that sermon again. Did it do any good? Most of us can not remember what we ate last year, except for a few special occasions at nice restaurants or holidays. Three meals a day for a whole year and we can remember just a handful. Were all those other meals useless? No. They gave us nourishment and strength for the time. They helped us. And, because we may not remember much about the meals, at the moment they were very helpful. The same goes with sermons. We may look back and remember a few here and there, but most have been forgotten. At the moment, they helped. At the moment, we learned some things. We may not recall the titles, the main points, but there have been things that we wrote in our Bibles and there were things that we stored in our memories that helped. And, although most have been forgotten, at the time they got us through worry, doubt and answered our questions. Those sermons challenged us and moved us. Those sermons changed us. We may not be able to point to one specific sermon, but we can see the accumulated good that they have done. Sitting at the feet of good preaching builds us, strengthens us, and helps us to grow.
There’s a lot to writing a sermon. From ideas, to introductions, to textual considerations, to applications, to illustrations—it’s like a composer writing a score for the symphony. There are many parts. There are many things to add and some things to drop off. There is a time factor to keep in mind. One must keep the audience in mind. What do they know and what are they going through. A lot of digging, thinking, writing, tossing paper into the waste basket, looking things up in books, reading, researching that goes into a single sermon. Those that boast that they can write a sermon in fifteen minutes, aren’t really lowering the nets very much.
I have a collection of sermon outlines books that were written from generations ago. Of all the sermons those preachers preached, what remains today are about a dozen or so that are recorded in those books. What happened to all the other sermons? They were lived in the lives of those who heard them. Good was accomplished. And, what will be the future of the sermons we preach these days? It will be the same. A few might find their ways into a book that will sit on a shelf. But most will be lived in the hearts of those who hear us.
It is said of David that he served the purpose of God in his own generation. That’s what our sermons do. So, get to it Mr. Preacher. Sunday’s coming and we need God’s word preached to us.