Great preaching seems to be hard to come by these days, at least in the churches I’ve sampled lately. I didn’t think I was asking for a whole lot. And I acknowledge that it’s easier to critique a sermon than to write and deliver it effectively. My main complaint: Fluff.
Fluff doesn’t offend anyone. It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, albeit a short-lived one. Fluff doesn’t take too long, either to write or deliver. A good dose of fluff can be dished out in 15 minutes or less, and even Uncle George won’t have time to fall asleep. Fluff is probably good for the offering plate too, I suspect.
But you won’t grow on fluff. We need some “meat”, served up directly from the Bible. We need to see that the same concerns of that time are relevant to today; we need to see Biblical characters struggling with the same issues that we struggle with, and we need to see how God instructs us on those issues, and to see what happens when we heed that advice. And what happens when we don’t.
Those types of sermons may offend some people – or they may convict those people to make changes. I don’t know how many people read the Bible outside of church, but I suspect for many, church is the only place they are going to learn what God says, and they need to learn it all. We can’t please God if we don’t know what pleases God, and finding out what we’re doing isn’t pleasing to God might hurt our feelings. But even that is accompanied by the promise that God will give us what we need, and that the ending of the story is awesomely good.
I don’t recall God sending forth His prophets with the stern warning not to offend anyone, or ask anything of them, just leave them with a good happy feeling. I want a church sermon that will leave me with something to ponder all week, and that will ultimately help me change my life in some small way that God would approve of. I want some instruction; I want to learn, I want to grow. But I don’t want any Fluff.
And so the search goes on…