Vol. 5, No. 8
~ Page 18 ~
What is preaching and what good does a sermon do? The first question can be answered by definition. The second depends. The word, preach means primarily "to deliver a sermon." This is what women are not permitted to do in mixed assemblies of men and women: note the word "teach," Greek, didasko, "to deliver didactic discourses" [Thayer] (1 Timothy 2:12). The word, sermon, comes from a Latin term meaning, "a stab, or a thrust," as in the heart or mind of the listener (Acts 2:37). This is the purpose of a sermon. It is not a discourse intended to satisfy "itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3).
There are three outstanding elements in preaching: the preacher, the message and the hearer. Christianity requires these three things: a sower, good seed or the pure Gospel and an honest (good) hearer.
Lots of study, research, reading, memorizing, organization and prayer. None of these ingredients guarantees a perfect product. A preacher can only do his best and that is a human variable. The average sermon contains 5,000 words. Most preachers deliver ninety sermons in one place each year. This totals about 450,000 words per year. A full-length novel has about 50,000 words. A preacher, therefore, produces the equivalent of nine novels a year. This should help answer the question, "What does the preacher do?"
There are those who never get offended at any pointed truth (even from those preachers who still offer pointed truths). They hear what is said, but never make a personal application. They are sure that others need it, and they certainly know how to apply it to their neighbors, but it hardly occurs to them to look inward.
There are others who feel that some sermons are a planned, personal attack on them. They may strike back at the perceived affront, but not at the preacher personally; always to others, in a close circle of friends, or against his wife and/or children.
There are some that simply refuse to hear and learn. They are glad to let the preacher have his say on what is for them an already decided issue. Nothing that he says (or the Bible says) is going to change their mind.
The wrong kind of hearer is inattentive, immature, inactive, indifferent and has "itching ears" (Matthew 13:15; Acts 7:57; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; James 1:22-25).
Listen to have your eyes opened, heart pricked and senses awakened (Matthew 13:15-16). Take the point(s) of the sermon and work to improve yourself in that regard. The preacher should do the same for himself. The right kind of hearer is sincere, serious, swift, steadfast and submissive (Matthew 5:6; Mark 4:24; James 1:19). A good listener is half of a good sermon!