Jump Start # 3487
2 Corinthians 5:11 “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.”
till new in this year, I have a routine that closes the books on the previous year. I take all the classes, sermons and other studies from my computer and move them to external hard drives. This frees up space for me on the laptop. I have a folder for sermons, PowerPoints and notecards. I clean those folders out for the new year. And, in doing this, I saw that I had preached 42 new sermons last year. Now, I preached many more sermons than that, but when on the road in meetings and lectureships I tend to bring something that I have already done and feel comfortable with.
Forty-two new sermons last year. And, as I thought about that, most of those sermons will never be preached again. New themes, new needs, new concerns, will lead me to writing a batch of new sermons for this year.
I wondered how many hours were put into those 42 new sermons from last year? I wonder how many books and articles I researched to develop those sermons? More than that, I wondered if any of those 42 sermons did any good? Did someone get closer to the Lord because of one of those 42 sermons? Was faith made stronger? Were questions answered? Was fear and doubt chased away? Will anyone remember any of these 42 sermons? Will I remember any of them?
On my shelves I have many, many books of printed sermons from long ago that belonged to some preachers of earlier generations. I collected them mostly for historical reasons. I wonder how many of those old sermons were ever preached again? Now, add the thought that I have been doing this for more than forty years and many of those years I preached twice on Sunday. The number of sermons reach into the thousands.
All of this takes us to our passage today. Paul preached. He tells us that he preached because he was trying to persuade people. It wasn’t because it’s Sunday and we have to have a sermon. His sermons, as all sermons ought to, had a purpose, a direction and an intention. He was trying to lead people to Jesus.
Here are some thoughts:
First, there isn’t going to be one sermon that does everything for you. Sermons are not Heaven’s vitamins that will give you 100% of all that you need. Sermons are for the moment. Much like the dinners that my wife makes. I have no way of knowing how many she made last year. She’s a great cook, but to be honest I don’t remember many of them. There are a few that stand out, but all of them helped me for the moment. None of the meals were enough that I didn’t have to ever eat again after that.
Second, when we preachers try to make every sermon the best that we can, we are truly being the diligent student of God’s word that we need to be. After forty years, I could put together some simple thoughts in ten minutes. But I would know that. God would know that. And, if God has given His best, then I need to do my best. I need to study hard. I need to make everything the best that I can.
How easy it is to cut corners, change titles and just recycle old sermons over and over, convincing ourself by believing, ‘No one will notice or even care in five years.’ But is that what you want others to do? Is this bringng excellence to the table?
Third, the cumulative effort of teaching solid, powerful, and needful sermons builds a strong congregation. One sermon alone may not do much, but it’s just one piece of a larger picture that shows integrity of God’s word, and the Scriptural basis of doing things. The culture or DNA of a congregation can be changed this way. In time, people who hear you week after week, see the seriousness that you place upon God’s word. That impacts how they come to look at the Bible and how they approach problems and issues in their own lives.
Forty-two sermons…it’s just what I was supposed to do.