Have you ever sat in church and wondered if the preacher would ever get done? Have you ever sat in church and got bored with the sermon? Has there been many sermons that have truly challenged you to change? I, personally, am easily bored in church - especially during the sermon. It's hard to keep my attention. Anyone else have that problem?
What about the sermon? In today's institutional church setting the sermon is the focal point of the service. Today's church is often judged by the quality of the pastor's preaching. Take the sermon out of the equation today and most don't think you've had church.
The fact is, today's sermon has no root in Scripture. Would you like to venture a guess where it came from? Dare I say it? The sermon has its roots in paganism. The reality is today's sermon actually takes away from the gathering of God's people. Keep in mind the NT church gatherings entailed each member functioning - not just one.
Of course, the Scriptures do record men and women preaching and teaching. I propose, however, there is a great difference between the Holy Ghost inspired preaching and teaching of the early church and the sermons that are preached today in our modern institutional church settings. We don't recognize the difference because we've been conditioned to try to fit our current church practices into Scripture. Take a look at the NT preaching and teaching. From Jesus to the apostles we see some good examples of what God intended. Consider, if you will, that NT preaching and teaching was sporadic, without structure and open to interruptions and discussion.
Looking at the Scriptures, we see the ministry of the Word came from the entire church in their gatherings. Frank Viola and George Barna wrote in their Book, "Pagan Christianity", "From Romans 12:6-8, 15:14, 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16 we see this included teaching, exhortation, prophecy, singing and admonishment. This 'every member' functioning was also conversational (1 Cor 14:29) and marked by interruptions (1 Cor 14:30). Equally so, the exhortations of local elders were normally impromptu."
The sermons that we see today are preached by the same person week after week with no opportunity for interruptions, questions or discussion. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate the NT church did it this way.
The sermon became a regular in church meetings in the third century and by the fourth century it became the norm. One must wonder if regular sermonizing didn’t take place until this time, and the first century Christians were not known for sermonizing then where did it originate? Like so many other practices of the modern church the sermon was borrowed and adopted from Greek pagan culture.
Around the third century open meetings began to die out and the whole body functioning mutual ministry went with it. Church gatherings became more and more organized and eventually became known as a “service” (from where we get our “church service”). Sadly, by the fourth century the church had become fully institutionalized and the sermon replaced prophesying, open sharing and Holy Spirit anointed teaching. Those who would bring forth the sermons had to be educated and skilled speakers. The average Christian was no longer permitted to address the church body.
One man sermonizing actually stunts the spiritual growth of a church. The thing that man has made the focal point of the church service actually does harm to the body of believers. It’s not so much the message that does the harm as much as the fact it puts all eyes on one person – the person doing the preaching. This leaves the congregation as spectators – nothing the early church would have done! There is also no room to interrupt or ask questions of the preacher during the sermon. The sermon is one way communication encouraging the congregation to sit and be passive. You see, today’s sermonizing doesn’t allow for the mutual ministry that was so prevalent in the early church.
As Christians, we must have the opportunity to function if we are to grow. We don’t grow by sitting in a pew looking at the back of someone’s head and listening to someone else do all the ministry. How can we learn from one another and even the pastor if we aren’t allowed to ask questions and spur discussion? Remember the priesthood of the believer???
I truly believe the church needs a restoration of mutual ministry in our gatherings - the body ministering to the body for mutual exhortation and ministry. How does this look? How about when we gather we do so with the anticipation of every member sharing? Maybe some will share what God has showed them or done for them since the last time they met. Some may sing a song or share a poem. There may well be teaching that will spark questions and discussion. Perhaps it will involve praying one for another in a literal and practical way. Do you get the idea? The body ministering to the body makes everyone equally important. There are no big I’s or little you’s. Jesus is central! This would transform our meetings which would in turn transform our lives as well as our churches!
Is preaching and teaching God’s Word biblical? Of course it is. But the pulpit sermonizing that takes place in our churches today is not the same as the preaching and teaching we find in Scripture.
Are you up for return to biblical gatherings? Perhaps a return to biblical gatherings would usher in a move of God of biblical proportions!
Until next time, enjoy the journey!
This blog post is another in a series looking at the practices of churches today and how they line up with the New Testament. Perhaps this series could be better called, "Kicking Over Sacred Cows". For further reading and research, I recommend the book "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.
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