The other day I listened to one of the programs for the Walla Walla Camp meeting 2009. It was on Preaching presented by Dave Thomas. It was mainly about the ways to prepare and deliver sermons. I did think it was interesting that the reason he feels that Preaching sermons is still the best method is because it is Biblical. That is preaching is mentioned in the New Testament. I would argue the usefulness of sermons in the modern information age is not all that useful. I mean really the Bible mentions nothing about Christians writing books yet Christians have probably written millions of books. We don’t really say that books aren’t useful because they are not Biblical. Culture and times change the way we do things…so just because something is Biblical does not mean it should continue with the same emphasis as it had in Biblical times.
But for now we are all subject to sermons because we fear change and fear trying new things. So continuing on the subject of preparing sermons Dave Thomas talks about the amount of time it takes to create a good sermon. 20-40 hours is the amount of time he indicates is needed to prepare the sermon. I find that hard to believe that most any sermon I have heard in the last 20 years of my life has taken 20 hours of preparation let alone 40 but let us assume that 20 hours is the average amount of time a pastor spends preparing a sermon. That is a good deal of work.
So why don’t they publish their sermons? In the computer age most all sermons should be written on computers, even the people who go against Dave Thomas’ instructions and only make an outline and don’t write our their sermons should have the outline in electronic form. They go through all this work give a sermon and that’s it, maybe some will record it to tape and maybe a few will put them on mp3 for download but hardly any publish the written sermon. What may take an hour to listen to can be skimmed for the key points in 10 minutes in written form. If it seems interesting or useful one can read the whole thing or listen to a download. (I think tapes are really outdated but maybe a few older people still like them.) With blog technology it is so easy to publish I can see practically no reason for sermons not to be posted in written form. I think the local church would benefit from posting sermons and distant people would benefit also.
There is one reason in the preparation for preaching program that Dave Thomas mentioned that might explain why preachers are not posting their written sermons. That reason is that sermons are often very personal. The person who gives a sermon feels particularly vulnerable right after giving a sermon. So they may likely feel vulnerable publishing their sermon. I don’t think that would be a good excuse if they really put in the work to prepare a good sermon and if they feel that God had something for them to say. I also think it would be useful because then the criticism of a sermon which people would not likely give to a preacher can be given in a less personal way. In other words it would be a way to get feed back and to improve the preachers reasoning or facts. I think of one sermon I heard where the person said that in ancient days people built lamps into their sandals (thy word is a lamp unto my feet). It is pretty funny when you think about it and it did spur me to see if there was any evidence for such a thing. There is not but I would guess that person is still using it
So publishing might be a little scary that people will point out your errors but if we are really searching for truth let us point out the errors and let the preacher make the corrections and even correct himself in front of the congregation. Maybe that is the first part in changing the sermons, maybe moving from the emotional show, we can move to reasoned arguments and ultimately maybe even dialog with our pastors, who I think are sorely in need of continuing education.