Sabbatical travels have allowed me to listen to different preachers in different places. Being in the pew and not being the one delivering the sermon has been a very refreshing and challenging experience. But as I have listened the one question that has been most prominent in my mind is ‘and the point is?’
On a number of occasions I have been given quite a lot of information about biblical characters, useful stories (and some not so helpful), and a few rather cheesy cliches that really should never have been said. On only two occasions did I feel personally challenged, engaged and uncomfortable. Now I don’t think sermons are simply about making me uncomfortable or anyone else for that matter but I do think they should make me think! Sharing lots of vaguely interesting information is vaguely interesting but that’s all it is. Surely there needs to be more of a challenge in it as well?
Whilst working as a vicar in Bristol I had the privilege of being on the local radio station and once a month reviewed the parish magazines that had been sent in to the Sunday morning programme. The criticism that came back from my reviews was that I was too critical. Those who had produced these magazines were volunteers, sincere in what they had written and I should not knock them for it. I wasn’t of course criticising their sincerity but rather the content which too often was very dull and really didn’t seem to have much point to it. I have no doubt that those who preach are sincere in what they are doing. They work hard at it and try to produce something that will at worst fill the time allocated and at best engage with people in some way or other. But do we preachers stop and ask ourselves ’and the point is?’as we prepare because if we don’t then those listening will certainly be asking that question. And the answer they come up with might not be what we intended at all.