Are We Preaching Down?

Is it good to reach the lowest common denominator? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking recently about the way sermons go in churches. Most of the time when I attend a church and hear a sermon, it’s really basic stuff every time. Normally, we think that we don’t want to go too deep. After all, we don’t want to confuse seekers that are coming in wondering what Christianity is about.

Now I understand the concern. You don’t want to go over people’s heads. However, I think w have overdone it. I am not saying you get up in the pulpit and act like you’re talking to PhDs. I remember once hearing about William Lane Craig speaking at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics and how many of us are educated at the conference, but it was said afterwards that only two people in the audience understood everything said.

But if we keep staying at a low level, we give nothing for people who want something deeper. Sometimes people who are seeking and wanting to know about Christianity want to know if it has any substance to it. Does it have anything worth saying to the world today? If we go and hear a sermon that is largely just self-help and how to treat your fellow man, well there’s a place for that, but most people can get that at the bookstore even in secular books.

Some people might wonder about those who do want to know the basics of Christianity. Here’s an idea. Let that be in a class a pastor or a church leader can regularly lead. If you want to know the basics and just that, then have a remedial class on Christianity where that is where you go and give the basic information.

Sermons need to have some depth to them. Church leaders in the past were normally highly intellectual and educated. This wasn’t just in theology, but in many other subject matters at the time. Education was prized as something valuable to have.

In the pulpit, we should be going deeper. We need to give people something they won’t get just anywhere else. We need to give them something they would not get on their own basic study. A pastor is paid not just to speak an hour every Sunday. He is paid for duties outside of that like counseling, church visitation, but also so he can be free to study and provide for his own family without having to do extra work. That time is meant for him to get the best stuff he can find on his subject so he can give it to his church members.

Here’s something to consider to measure if you’re a pastor how well you’re doing. Contact the people of your church on Tuesday and individually ask them what the sermon was about. How many of them remember? I suspect few will remember. Ask them about what happened in their favorite TV show or sporting event the prior week though and they will tell you. There was more for them to remember there. If people find something worth remembering, they will make an effort to remember it. If they don’t, they won’t. If they don’t remember what you said in your sermons, it could be because you didn’t say anything worth remembering. Heck. There are times I forget what the sermon was about before Sunday is over.

If you don’t give your congregation anything to think about, they won’t. Give them something about Jesus they won’t find in basic Bible study. Give them something that you got from your years of Seminary. Show them that you yourself are a real student of Scripture. For those who are wanting the basics, set up a class for that.

People generally become the way you talk to them. If you talk down to them, they will become that. If you treat them like they are capable of learning, they will become that as well. If we want a church that has intellectual grounding, we need to talk to the people like they’re capable of it.

Talk up to your congregation and not down to them. They’re capable.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)