Sunday, February 08, 2009

BHT quote on sermonettes making Christianettes, ha

I don't mind listening to hour long sermons, in fact I can often enjoy them. But the hour long sermons had better have a lot of content. Driscoll, for instance, can preach for an hour and for a good long time that hour actually had meat in it. Not so much in 2007, which was a shame, but by and large he has a history of saying stuff and the content was actual content, at least often.

But then Paul wrote of tongues that he would rather say five words in a language people could understand than far more words in tongues. Some preaching is sorta like tongues in that only those with the gift of interpretation, if you will, can get something out of the sermons. Someone might listen to Driscoll or Piper and not get anything out of it not because there's nothing there but because a person has to train themselves to listen. Or, if you're not Protestant and a Calvinist you might get nothing out of a Piper or Driscoll sermon because you simply don't hold that their understanding of Christ is as biblical as the perspective of others.

I know some folks who are Episcopalian or Orthodox and the liturgical approach there precludes the hour long sermons you would hear in a place like Mars Hill. I don't think the people in these services get less Bible overall than at a place like Mars Hill or a Baptist church. In fact if you look at how much of the Creed derives from Scripture, invokes Scripture, and alludes to it; if you consider the readings from the Psalms and from the Gospel you'll find that if you compare that to, say, an hour long sermon on a single verse in Romans that the people in the higher liturgical churches are getting MORE Scripture than in the low church Protestant congregation. The low church Protestants are, by and large, too busy paying attention to the preaching as though it were the meat of the service to realize how LITTLE Scripture shows up in that kind of service.

It gets more pronounced if you consider how few churches have musical settings of Psalms or biblical passages, too. Now I'm not saying we go all Genevan psalter and hard core regulative principle. That's nuts, too. ButI do notice that as I get older the low church liturgical approach in American Protestantism no longer seems to have any of the advantages that their adherants often think are there. I.e. it's not "just the Bible" and often that Bible preaching is more the preaching than the biblical text in a proportion that sometimes gets me thinking that people who preach for an hour can be tempted to put a lot of themselves in a sermon that doesn't need to be there.

Now I've heard fifty minute sermons that stuck with the biblical material. I downloaded a solid sermon from a friend of mine about John the Baptist recently, actually, and it was good. When you're giving an overview of the life of John the Baptist and how his life speaks to our journey of faith and doubt fifty minutes is totally cool for a broad overview of the life of a saint who is often sidelined in preaching and teaching. An hour long sermon on a list of names from a roll call in Nehemiah, yes I'm purposefully picking non-random sermon samples here, is the bad kind of talk-for-an-hour about a passage approach. Everyone has off days but there are times when the subject doesn't really warrant an hour long presentation. You can tell that it doesn't if the passage read is not really mentioned by way of exposition.

But if you preach just fifteen minutes those fifteen minutes have to be really good! You have to have one point and focus on that point.

Which is to say, I read the Boar's Head Tavern and, sorry, Bob. Phillip Winn is right. I've heard Driscoll sermons that made me wish he hadn't wasted my time pretending to preach on a list of names in Nehemiah when he's preaching about what he and others have in store for the church. I've heard a homily from an Orthodox priest about how God can part the Red Sea but you still have to put your faith into action by actually crossing it when He parts it for you and that short homily was more cogent to me than probably 80% of the preaching Driscoll did the previous year. Notice I'm not saying Driscoll sucks or that the Orthodox priest is totally awesome for preaching a short sermon. That's not the point. I don't anticipate becoming Orthodox but I didn't anticipate becoming a fan of South Park so, you know, as James put it in his epistle, you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I might weirdly end up being an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian or any number of things.

What I'm saying is that, per Paul on tongues, the volume spoken is not as important as where and when and how one expresses what needs to be said. It is a pleasure, as the scriptures say, to say the right thing at the right time. If pastors applied "where words abound there is no lack of sin" to their own sermons they might preach much shorter sermons the better to not err with their mouths. I know of at least one pastor who should seriously consider that but most part most pastors do okay whether they preach long or short.