While on the seminary board a few years ago, good preaching was a major theme. This led to an emphasis on excellence in preaching at Calvin College’s Institute of Christian Worship (presently funded by the Lilly Foundation). The theme of good preaching was mentioned in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. The article was entitled, “The Hunt for a Good Sermon”. One paragraph in the article reads, “Today’s complainers include Ross Douthat who recently published, ‘Bad Religion: How We Become a Nation of Heretics’ describes churches whose preaching promise prosperity to the faithful or dispense the gospel of narcissism. Others wonder about a pulpit presence so charismatic that it draws more attention to the preacher than to his message”
At one time preaching was judged in the Christian Reformed Church as to their theological content. The sermon needed to be theologically sound. Theologically sound meant that the sermon reflected a “reformed” world and life view that was consistent with the three confessions of the church. In fact every program within the church reflected the same. Men’s and Women’s Society were led by individuals who were well grounded in the historical confessions of the church. Catechism classes and Sunday school classes for all children were Bible stories and lessons based on the confessions.
The “Journal” article concludes, “The obsession with measuring “results, the rebranded promise of some technique or strategy: Preachers are bombarded with this every day stuff (four keys to success, six marks of a healthy church, seven principles of growth). Many ignore it and get on with their work in ‘scripture, sermon and sacrament.’ Praise God for that”.
A few years ago a preacher was accused of using sermons word for word from a well known mega church each Sunday. What was to me most shocking was when asked about this practice he found nothing wrong with doing so. It made me wonder how much of the popular church growth seminars and the internet are influencing our Christian Reformed pulpits so that we in fact fit into the quest of the “Journal “ article, “The Hunt for the Good Sermon”.
As an elder who’s responsible for regulating the Worship Service (Article 52), how do you evaluate sermons? Is there a regular process in place in which the elders along with the pastor have a positive, constructive discussion concerning the process of making the sermon and the delivery of sermon?