I do substitute preaching and Bible teaching as I have opportunity. See the tabs at the top of the blog. I shared my last blog post (a transcript of a sermon) on social media, and a friend had these thoughts:
“My friend Laura has a real gift for teaching complex Biblical truths in a way that is easy to understand. In this transcript of a recent message she preached, she explains justification. I find it to be very clear, very interesting, and very refreshing compared to many sermons I hear these days that seem to be full of sports analogies and witty parenting anecdotes, leading my mind to wander to the point where I miss the good stuff. I recommend reading her post (and her other posts!) if you’re interested in solid Biblical teaching.”
My point with sharing that is not to promote myself, but to point out that my sermon was appreciated because of the LACK of anecdotes, stories, and illustrations. I’ve received similar comments before.
It really is possible to keep people interested without using all kinds of anecdotes. Hear me out: Stories and illustrations can be helpful! A well-chosen illustration can bring clarity. But…they can also take over a “sermon” and the sermon ends up more like an entertaining speech.
More thoughts on preaching here, including the difference between a sermon and a speech! What can pass for a “sermon” now-a-days is rather sad.
An “entertainment mentality” also took over our culture and the church succumbed too. More here: Amusing Ourselves to Death. Yes, we are being amused to our spiritual detriment. We are not being fed the riches of God’s Word.
The Bible is powerful – let it loose, explain it verse by verse – and it will do its job of pointing people to Christ and helping Christians in their life of faith. Sadly, based on some sermons today, there is little belief in the power and authority of Scripture. The Bible must be embellished with all kinds of things…from stories to tech…to make it entertaining.
Again, I am not dissing all stories and illustrations in sermons or Bible teaching! But it is not mandatory. I’ve heard sermons begin with such a lame or irrelevant story that it appeared to me that the preacher was following some “rule” that EVERY sermon MUST begin with a story. If you have a pertinent story, great, but if not – you should not desperately settle for anything. Just start explaining the passage! Skip the story!
Once I heard a message about the cross begin with the preacher telling about a scar he got riding his bike as a kid, and he even showed a power-point picture of the scar he still had from it. Uh? I almost found this sacrilegious. I don’t think a scar from bike riding compares even remotely to the scars Jesus bore for us.
But…Jesus told stories!! Well, yes, Jesus did! He told very interesting parables and stories. However, carefully consider these stories that Jesus told. They were well thought out stories. Sometimes characters in the story actually represented particular people in the audience – and it portrayed them in a less-than-positive way. The audience members realized it and got angry at Jesus. Sometimes the stories of Jesus had underlying meaning that required special thought to understand the point. Some people missed the point, even his own disciples, and Jesus would explain it to them afterwards. One time Jesus referred to a recent news event (a tower falling over and killing some people) but it was to make a specific spiritual point.
Jesus was not telling stories to break the ice, entertain, or keep himself popular with his audience. His stories were much more purposeful than that.
Please, preachers and teachers, people need to be fed God’s Word – they don’t need to be storied to death.
⇒ If you appreciated this post, please consider sharing it. Maybe with your preacher? haha.