Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sermons and Their Delivery #2

As noted in my earlier post, I see a sermon as:

… an exposition and application of God’s Word which has been internalized by God’s messenger and then delivered by that messenger to the people for whom it was intended.

While the sermon is an exposition and application of God’s Word, it carries the marks of its author as well. Two men of God may choose the same Biblical text, find the same principal theme in that text, and, possibly, even the same points of presenting that theme. Nevertheless, the sermon will reflect each man’s style, resources (internal and external references), education, background, etc.

Furthermore, many times the application derived from the text will also vary due to not only the difference in the authors but also to the difference in the recipients. Sermons will vary in their composition.

The same may be said when it comes to the delivery of that message. Each speaker will present a message differently. Some men are monotonic, some are not. Some men read their messages, others do not. Some will use extreme gestures, others may barely move. The Bible doesn’t say much about the actual delivery of the message. Certainly you would expect some passion if the sermon has truly been “internalized by God’s messenger” before being presented. But even the characteristics of those hearing the message may change the way in which the preacher actually delivers the message (e.g., a sermon I preach only to children will, most likely, be delivered differently than if I present it to a typical congregation).

Since the application of a message is primarily geared at the recipients of that message, is it ever appropriate to preach a “repeat” sermon? In other words, if God burdens you with a message to be delivered to a specific group at a specific time, should you ever preach that message at a future time?

Again, the Word of God does not directly address this matter. I haven’t found anywhere in the Scripture which forbids this practice. On the other hand, I have not found any text which supports it.

From a common sense perspective, it doesn’t seem to me to make much sense for a preacher to preach the same exact sermon to the same congregation. Repeating a message smacks of laziness on the part of the preacher. Yet, if God truly guides the preacher to repeat a message to the same congregation then I will not argue with the Lord. I suspect most church goers won’t even recognize a repeat sermon! Furthermore, most of us need to hear the same thing over and over until we get it. I would hope, though, this would be a very infrequent occurrence.

But what should we think concerning a preacher delivering the same sermon to a different congregation? While the application of a message should be directed toward the recipients of that message, there are several applications of Scripture which apply to virtually any congregation (e.g., the necessity of the sinner to repent and believer). Surely such a sermon could be shared by a minister to two different congregations.

In real life this is often done by ministers we call evangelists. These men usually have a collection of their messages they preach repeatedly to different groups. Since the primary thrust of sermons from an evangelist is for conversion, the application of their message would be appropriate for any congregation (or group).

Surely if God can lead a man to preach the same sermon to the same congregation more than once He can also lead a man to preach the same sermon to multiple congregations. Personally, when I preach I try to have a fresh word for the people to whom I am speaking. I have heard that was the case with Spurgeon as well. He did not believe in repeating a message.

But in lack of Scripture forbidding the practice, I cannot say a preacher should never repeat one of his messages. If God has given him that message, if it is expository, if it burns within his heart, and if its application is appropriate for those to whom he is delivering it, then so be it.

I do close with a warning to my fellow preachers. Take great care not to get in the habit of repeating your messages even to other listeners. If you do you will find yourself becoming lazy in your sermon preparation and your listeners may find they are being fed stale bread rather than a fresh word from God.

Next, a matter of great concern …

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