Why I love the Bible and hate sermons

Coffee with Whipped Cream

I find it a great joy to spend 20 hours a week in Bible study but I’d rather shovel rocks than sit through most 20 minute sermons.  Sean Lucas’s post “The difference between a lecture and a sermon” helped me understand why.  He explains: 

Whereas my major goal in lecturing is information, my major goal in preaching is transformation.”  He concludes: “And perhaps the way to keep this in mind is to ask this question: ‘How does this sermon, as currently written/prepared, move my people’s affections in such ways that they will love Christ more as a result of hearing this?'”

In my experience there can be no transformation without information.  Moving affections without information has all the nourishment of whipped cream.

Lasting change results from hearing and understanding the Word of God.  Moving affections is a sugar rush.

  • Open the meaning of the text to me, my heart sings in response!  Unfold the author’s intended meaning, how the passage fits in the context and with the rest of Scripture, and I gladly beseech God to change my worldview, my attitudes, my actions, my thoughts, my heart and my soul.  Tell me your conclusions without telling me how you reached them from the text, and I’ll leave thinking, “That’s one man’s opinion.”
  • Persuade me with the clear meaning of the text and I will repent. Tell me a story designed to manipulate my emotions into a specific response, and I’ll leave thinking, “Nice story.  Wonder what God would think about it?”
  • Give me the universal biblical principle taught by the text and I can apply it to my life no matter how wildly circumstances swing. Give me application without explaining the Scriptural support for it and the minute my situation deviates from your example I will be unable to “go and do likewise.”

Transformation happens when we increase our understanding of God’s word.  Understanding God’s word requires information — like context, authorial intent, flow of thought, accounting for all the details of the text, the historical background, how one verse leads to the next, unfolding the metaphors, the nuances of the original language, how this passage fits with the rest of the book and the rest of Scripture, etc.

Omitting the deep exegesis of Scripture to move emotion is like scooping the whipped cream from the top of a cup of coffee.  The sugar-rush will transform my short-term emotional experience, but I need the hot coffee to warm and nourish my soul.