It’s relatively easy for a preacher on his/her own to quickly get into the sermon subject and the response being called for. It’s the how-to that takes extra sermon time to develop. Sadly, most Sunday sermons conclude without even a mention of how to go about doing what is needed to effect life transformation. The hearers’ minds have not been engaged with intriguing practicalities. So the habit of listening remains one of hearing and forgetting.
Unless change comes in regard to these matters, the American church really has little hope of surviving! Give it a couple more generations of the same old, same old, and I prophesy that our sanctuaries will be as empty as Europe’s!
A couple decades back, the battle lines in the church opposed each other over the issue of music. It was a bloody war that still continues in some circles. But new instruments started to appear, like guitars and (would you believe) drums! Song leaders slowly faded into oblivion as worship teams replaced them. Instead of a hymn here and there in the service, large blocks of time were opened up for sustained worship that usually featured new songs that were sung over and over until learned. People stood more than before and started lifting their hands in praise. Hymnals were put aside for PowerPoint slides of the words, displayed on walls or screens by overhead projectors. The revolution left many wounded, but in the end the younger element had its way.
What I see on the horizon is “The Mother of All Church Wars.” This time it will center on preaching and it will make the earlier music conflicts seem like child’s play. I say it’s time to admit that with the hundreds of thousands of church sermons preached in this nation every weekend, most really aren’t accomplishing all that much. People still come and listen, but for the most part they leave about the same as when they arrived, spiritually speaking. After they get home many of them can’t even answer simple questions like, “What was the subject of the sermon series?” “What response was called for?” “What practical help was offered regarding how to do this?” So the message is quickly forgotten, and the sinister Sermon-Sucking Black Hole remains a huge problem.