“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley (1703-1791)
“If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both.” J. I. Packer (1926-2020)
Over the years I have heard some very interesting responses to my own sermons.
Greeting people after church, a little boy said to me: “Pastor, during your sermon my tooth came out.”
Another time, a well-dressed gentleman informed me after a 30-minute message: “A good sermon that touches the heart must be at least 90 minutes long.” Quite frankly, I don’t remember how I responded to him.
I have heard people criticize pastors (not me) by saying that many of their sermons do not go deep enough and seem superficial at best. These true believers express their desire to “dive deeper into the Word” so they can better understand what the original Greek or Hebrew text states. They value “meaty” sermons. They expect to draw closer to Jesus by discovering hidden truths in the infallible Holy Scriptures.
Recently, Pastor Herbert Cooper made this provocative assessment in a Daily Devotional in the YouVersion app: “Most Christians are more educated in the teaching of the Bible that wide surpasses their level of obedience. There is nothing that goes deeper than loving others, and you don’t need better teachers or more seminars or more YouTube personalities to understand or apply this important truth.”
In other words, as the Nike advertisement says: “Just do it!”
Don’t get me wrong. It is important to strive to understand the original texts. Pastors need to preach relevant, in-depth sermons to their Sunday audiences.
Frankly, we in the church, including I, are overly-nurtured as “hearers of the word” and under-achievers as “doers of the Word.”
Recently, a preacher shared that his Sunday sermon was particularly good, with deep theological insights. Then his wife asked him: “What am I to do this week with what you preached today?” Does that ever happen to you?
David Veeman says a sermon must answer two questions: “So what?” and “Now what?” The first question asks, why is this scripture text important to you or me? The second asks, what should we do about what we learned.
Here’s a startling passage: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Am I and my congregation applying the scriptures we already know? If not, why not?
The “preacher’s preacher” Charles Spurgeon writes: “Where application begins there the sermon begins.” We need to exercise our spiritual muscles each time we ingest “meaty” explanations.
As Christians, we often have too much head knowledge with too little heart knowledge or everyday application. We read, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
Yet, why would we expect to delve deeper in the Word when we refuse to love someone? Knowing what scripture says, can we forgive the person who hurt us and, better yet, to help someone who deeply disappointed us in the past?
No matter how well we understand the original languages or how intensely we dig into the Word, how will we benefit if we refuse to apply what we hear or read to our daily lives? For me, the easiest scriptures to grasp have the deepest [simplest?] meaning. For example,
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)
That’s not hard to understand. If we would apply such scriptures, God could transform and light up the dark world – through us and our churches.
My prayer: “God help us and the churches we serve to clearly understand and practically apply what it means to be “doers of the Word.” May we as your children wholeheartedly love and serve people in the cities, villages, or regions to which you have called us!
Paul and his wife Mechthild have planted churches in various parts of Germany as well as in Bregenz, Austria. The Clarks are actively involved in teaching as well as assisting and coaching other churches being planted in German speaking Europe. Paul initiated and administers a web platform which provides resources and inspiration for German speaking pastors throughout Europe. Paul is author of the book: German Pentecostal Church Planting 1945–2005: Implications for Intentional Mission in the Twenty-First Century.