You Might Want to Fact-Check Your Pastor’s Sermon

[This illustration I heard is a...] great story about the power of a good deed. There’s just one problem: Almost nothing about this story is true. It’s one of the most popular myths about Churchill, according Snopes.com and the Downers Grove, Illinois-based Churchill Centre.

How do I know this?

During the sermon, I stopped listening to the pastor and instead turned my eyes on my cell phone. Something about the story just didn’t sit right — it was too good to be true. So whatever spiritual lesson I was supposed to learn in the sermon was soon overshadowed by the wisdom of a Google search.

Things get even worse when a pastor starts quoting statistics…

Read on here.

Preachers love to drop statistics and historical tidbits into their sermons. Too bad so many of their facts are untrue.

 

Research: Americans Prefer In-Person Preaching to Video

So do the rest of us, no doubt.

Most Americans still prefer a real-live preacher to a video sermon, according to a survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

About a third (35 percent) say they will only visit churches with a live sermon.

Three in 10 say a video sermon won’t keep them from a church, but they still prefer live peaching. The same number say live or video sermons are fine.

Less than one percent prefer to watch a video sermon.

“I don’t think anyone gets up on a Sunday morning saying, ‘Boy, I’d really like to watch a video sermon,’ ” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research and author of Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation. “But the fact that many churches utilize video sermons means other factors such as relationships, preaching approach, music, relevance, and location can be more important.”

[...]

 

The Best Preacher I Ever Had

A post I saw in the NCR:

I have been thinking about the best preacher I ever heard.  Not about the single best homily or sermon, but about the best and most consistent preaching I have encountered.

When it comes to preaching, we all have our horror stories and I have done my fair share of grumbling.

But rather than focus on the bad preaching, I have been thinking about what makes the good preaching good…

So what is it about the best preaching I ever had and what about it made it consistently good?

As I thought about it, I kept coming back to one particular priest that week in and week out offered good solid preaching.  I realized that he was the best preacher I ever had.  So what about his preaching made it so good?  Well, no one particular thing.  I have tried to distill certain elements of his preaching and other good preaching to come up with a list of things I think are at the root of it.

—He rarely gave a homily more than 10 minutes long.  Most of the homilies were in the 7-9 minute range.

—Every homily he gave was prepared in advance (with obvious care) and he worked from notes.

—He did not walk around during his homilies, but rather stayed put at the pulpit referencing his aforementioned notes but never reading.

—He spoke in a clear, assertive, and masculine style that avoided any misplaced interrogative lilt, the fake soft voice (think Harry Reid), or the sing-songy style so common today.  In short, he spoke as one with authority.

—His brief homilies and sermons generally sought to make a single point and to make it well.  He avoided the temptation to tangents and humorous asides.  Any stories or quotes served to illustrate the main thrust of his sermon.

—And perhaps most of all, his homilies and sermons were all theologically solid, teaching unequivocally what the Church teaches.  They were never fire and brimstone just as they were never soft-pedaled.  There is no greater sign of love than plain truth stated plainly.

I believe that his consistent application of the above principles and methods resulted in consistently good (and sometimes great) preaching.  Just as we emulate saints to be more holy, priests looking to become better preachers can emulate those who are so good.

I am not saying that there is only one way to do it, but my experience has shown me that consistent application of these sound principles will result in consistently sound preaching…

 

A Case for the 10 Minute Homily

Over at Canterbury Tales a day or two ago:

Yesterday was the feast of Saint Peter Chrysologus (AD 380-450). The Greek nickname Χρυσολόγος means “golden-worded.”

His nickname refers to the fact that he was the most celebrated preacher of his time. He was the Saint John Chrysostom of the West.

But if you study his famous sermons, you’ll discover that this sermons were short. He was a master of packing it tight and thick. He did not waste words. He could preach a brilliant sermons in five to ten minutes and blow away his audience. He new that people are bored quickly. If you’re going to make an impact, you’d better do so quickly.

He is proof that good preaching is not necessarily loooooong preaching. Short and sweet.

Saint Peter Chrysologus, pray for us.

 

 

Don’t Fear Preaching as Jesus Preached

Msgr Charles Pope writes:

Some years ago I was stationed with a priest who, while he often liked my homilies, would often critique my use of what he called “fear based preaching.” Perhaps I had warned the congregation of punishment for sin, or even let slip that certain things were mortal sins that would exclude one from heaven and land them in hell. I would often playfully remind the congregation that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin by saying, “Go to Mass or go to hell.” I would also warn that fornicators would not inherit the Kingdom nor idolaters nor adulterers nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (cf 1 Cor 6:9).

Of course I was quoting Scripture and preaching out of a voluminous biblical tradition of warning texts. Nevertheless, the older priest would often wag his finger and say, “Ah that’s fear-based preaching…fear based!”

Perhaps it was, but so what?

Rest here.

 

Good Sermon, Father

Dear Father X,

Every Sunday, as we walk out the door, we shake your hand and say, “Good sermon, Father.” We’re not lying. We’re usually fairly satisfied with what you have to say, but no one is perfect. Even Kobe Bryant misses the occasional easy layup.

You studied preaching in seminary, and presumably your professors gave you tips. We wonder, though, if you know what the average person in the pew is looking for in a homily. Maybe you’d appreciate some feedback. If so, here are some thoughts for your consideration.

First off, your sermon is very important to us. We know that we should read the Bible on our own and maybe participate in a prayer or study group. That’s not possible right now, though, so your homily is basically all the religious instruction we get. Please make it your priority. We understand that you have many demands on your time, but we’re not asking for a 30-minute Billy Graham production. The Vatican says a homily should be about eight minutes long, and that sounds good to us.

One reason we don’t read the Bible on our own is that some passages are confusing. Why did Jesus curse the fig tree for not producing fruit when it wasn’t the season for fruit? Why did Paul send the runaway slave back to his owner? Isn’t slavery wrong?

So, if the Sunday lessons include a difficult passage, please help us understand it. We don’t need a long history lesson, but we appreciate a little background. John 10 makes so much more sense now that you’ve explained how shepherds made a circle of stones, led the sheep inside and lay across the opening to protect them through the night. That is just like Jesus laying down his life for us. Thanks.

Many books on how to give a speech suggest opening with a joke. That’s not necessary, especially if you don’t normally crack jokes. On the other hand, people always like stories. That’s probably why Jesus told so many. If you’ve got a good story that illustrates your point, we’d love to hear it.

Some priests claim that Protestant ministers have the edge in storytelling because they’re usually married with children. True, but you grew up in a home with parents and siblings. You went to school. You have friends and favorite sports teams. Surely you’ve seen how God acts in everyday circumstances. Tell us about that.

The story doesn’t have to be about you. It can be something you saw on TV or overheard while shopping. For example, Pope Francis recently preached on Luke 24 (the road to Emmaus). He said some people spend so much time complaining about life’s disappointments that they don’t notice Jesus is walking beside them. That’s a clear, simple illustration of how a Scripture passage applies to our everyday life.

We like knowing something about your personal faith, but spare us your pet peeves. Don’t make every homily about the evils of abortion or how we should all tithe. Don’t scold us. Don’t grumble about the people who don’t come to church. We’re here, aren’t we?

Theology is important, but, honestly, we spend very little time pondering the Trinity or the mystery of transubstantiation. Mostly, we worry about our kids, our parents and our jobs. We struggle to forgive those who have hurt us. We wonder why the world is such a mess. We feel guilty that we don’t do more for others. Show us how Christ can help us with these issues right now, and we’ll bless your name. Who knows? We might even tithe.

Respectfully,
Your Parishioners

Source

HT