Saturday, November 10, 2018

Preaching FAIL. . .

There is a sermon, prominently featured by the Lutheran School of Theology on their web page and Facebook, which illustrates the great fail of preaching.  You can listen to it or read it ( - see October 9 posting)  or "Soundcloud" under "LSTCChicago" (see: this audio version: 

I could spend much time criticizing the preacher but the point I want to make is less about this sermon and this preacher than what happens when sermons fail, when preaching does not deliver its promise, when causes display the Gospel of Christ crucified, and when this Gospel is reduced to a cause.  It is not just that such preaching is unfaithful to Scripture but that it is unfaithful to the very cause of the Word -- the gift of gracious freedom through the forgiveness of the sins.  When advocacy for a cause -- any cause no matter how good -- replaces the preaching of the one and only Word that brings hope and life to those laboring under despair and death, the hearer is left in his or her sins, left under the judgment of guilt, and left under the doom of death.  When sin escapes our vocabulary in the pulpit and when affirmation replaces absolution as the great and wondrous gift of God, it is not simply a failure but a condemnation in which the hearer is left without hope.

There is also another problem.  That problem is when agencies of the Church (seminaries) fail to call out the problems with such preaching failures, when the hearers remain silent while the Word of Life is left silent, and when the Gospel becomes simply a word without the cross behind it.  For the hearer also has a responsibility to insist that the fake gospel is no Gospel, that passionate and pious words are not a substitute for the life-giving Word of the cross, and when advocacy for causes is not the domain or duty of the pulpit. 

Preaching fails for many reasons but preaching that abuses the text and commandeers the Word of God to be used for another purpose than to redeem is the preaching fail that cannot be tolerated.  I have heard countless sermons and most of which I cannot recall even a word but the ones that I cannot forget are when the preachers words masked and detoured the Word of God and left me without the comfort of God's grace to forgive me, a sinner, and the hope of God's grace to redeem me, a lost and condemned sinner, from death to everlasting life.  I hope that if you listened to this sermon, you will not forget it.  It is not that I want you to remember the preacher of this sermon but to remember how preaching fails God and fails the hearer.  And if you are in the pulpit, listen up and make sure you do not do the same thing.  And if you are in the pew, don't tolerate such preaching failures.  Get up and leave.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

I have found that the most effective sermons are ones in which the preacher carries his Bible to the pulpit, has carefully prepared his message, and measures his words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If he tries to entertain or be socially relevant instead, his preaching will fall short.