In my observation, one of the last "holdouts" that God is dealing with as He changes the shape and forms of today's Church is the sermon. It's the "Alamo." It's "Custer's last Stand," or even worse, the "Ark of Sacredness." When it comes to the things we are willing to adjust, alter, or change, the sacred sermon, the holy homily, is the last to go. Given the reality that the average pastor is judged, praised, crucified, or deified for his weekend oratory, it is no wonder that he spends most of his waking hours (and sometimes not-so-waking hours) preparing, polishing, and practicing this Protestant performance ethic.
Unfortunately, it is also the thing that can represent so much of a
pastor’s personal identity, the part he plays in the whole scheme of
the church. Today’s sermon stands as the centerpiece of the average
evangelical gathering. And he is called "pastor" in today’s
ecclesiastical system, based upon the perception of his peers, his
colleagues, and even his constituents because of his ability or lack
thereof to "preach" or "teach" or "sermonize." Thus, the common
interpretation of that famous list of gifts in Ephesians 4 of apostles,
prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, could just as well read,
"apostles, prophets, evangelists, and sermonizers." Yet the word
"sermon" does not even appear in Scripture.
We can give up the worship leading to others (if they can sing). We can
give up the prayers, the prophecies, and even the "sacred"
announcements. Maybe even the "all-sacred" offering can be led or
officiated by someone else. Maybe, just maybe (depending on your
liturgical bent), even the administering of communion or the Lord’s
Supper can be given to another (as long as he is a qualified elder and
the husband of "one" wife.) But no one, under any circumstances, simply
no way (unless we are on vacation when the proverbial itinerant guest
speaker comes in, or some missionary on furlough) is someone going top
take our sermon away. Well, yes…maybe the Holy Spirit, but that is
only a time or two a year…but absolutely no one else.
Of course, there is a place, and a strong biblical place, for
proclamation and teaching, a deliberate call for the equipping of the
saints, and for living in truth. It’s how we do it that has become all
too traditionalized and ritualized. What’s behind the fact that pastors
are the only ones who can consistently preach or teach? And not just
the content of the sermon, but the mode, the way, the means through
which the message is given, need to be thought through. If we know that
our target audience has changed and evolved, and demand more, there
must be a shift. In addition, there really is no biblical support for
the "talking head" model of a "one man teaches all."
For God’s sake, and the people’s sake, let’s reevaluate our delivery
systems to give this truth that we carry and cherish, a better and a
richer chance of finding root. Today’s listener, in the classic lecture
hall of biblical learning (regardless of how gifted the speaker is)
needs help. If not, then listening is simply all that might be
accomplished. And that will be left with something to be desired.
(Taken from Permission Granted by G. Cooke and G. Goodell 2006)