I was recently asked this question from a friend and would love you hear your response:
What role would you say that listening to sermons has played in your sanctification and growth in godliness? Particularly, the sermons you listen to each Sunday at your local church.
To answer your question – I would say that the preached word on Sunday morning has had comparatively little significant impact that I can recall. “That I can recall” I think is an important qualifier. Has it had an impact? Sure it has, but I can only specifically remember a few sermons that I can say, “wow, that impacted me”.
I think perhaps a lot of the positive effect is through a kind of constant “soaking” of the word through good Bible teachers (much like we do in our own Bible study). One is not really cognizant of it having an impact, but it does for sure. To what degree? I’m not really sure.
But the overwhelming thing I think about in terms of my own personal spiritual growth is my time in the word and prayer, my own personal teaching of the word, serving, and relationships where older believers have invested in me.
Jesus did a lot of sermon like teaching, but it seems like it was always in the context of relationships, life on life. This is partly why I am leaning towards smaller church ecclesiology. I have only worked in big churches and have grow to see the draw back of how impersonal it can be.
My executive pastor tells me about how he has asked this same question to many many people over the course of his years and he has told me that he has never once has someone say that the preached word on Sunday was the #1 thing that contributed to their sanctification. Should we throw out the preached word on Sunday? Never, the Biblical emphasis on preaching is too strong, but I think it is good to challenge and question our current modes of ecclesiology since the NT gives very few rules for how our worship service is to be conducted.
It’s easy to see how we got here…
(years are rough)
500-1500 – Catholic church dominates and there is a thousand year void (for the most part) of any solid, accessible, gospel preaching for the lay person
1500 – Reformation takes place – Luther and Calvin and others push back really hard on this and greatly emphasize the preached word for the lay person.
We still are reaping the benefits of this today, but I would say that I think it has, in our current culture, created churches full of spectators that I don’t see in the NT for the church. As Greg often says, we have so many different structured contexts for listening, but we have very few structured contexts for serving and doing. This is a problem. Both should be mandatory. But in our culture, the listening is mandatory and the doing is not. Big problem in my view.
This is really hard stuff. There are no hard preaching rules in the Bible for the amount or the form. I would personally like to see structured elevation of the preached word in the context of home groups by qualified teachers.
Just my first reaction, knee-jerk response… Take it for what it’s worth.