I regularly hear people lauding the fact that some hearer of a sermon could accurately remember its main points at lunch, or the next day, or perhaps years later. The point being, of course, that it would be wonderful if preachers could preach in that way so that every hearer retained the main points. Indeed it would.
However, I confess to being suspicious of the thinking behind this desire. It does seem to suggest that the main point of preaching, is the educational benefit. While I believe there is educational benefit to be had, not everyone will receive it. The preacher may not be clear. The hearers may be at different intellectual levels. The preacher and/or the hearers may simply have an off day! All sorts of reasons.
Am I just being complacent? I don’t think so. The purpose of preaching is surely something else. Michael McKinley of the 9Marks blog (which is all I know about him) puts it like this:
…as I sat down after inflicting 45 minutes of Hosea on our church last Sunday, I was struck by how information retention is really a secondary consideration. Do I care if people in my church can outline Hosea from memory at this time next year? A little, I guess. I mean, it would be nice. Certainly I hope the systematic teaching of the Bible will help my congregation understand the Scriptures more fully over the years.
But something much greater and more important is happening in a sermon. We are holding up Christ from all the Scriptures, we are exploring the ways that he is beautiful, we are feeding on him by faith and celebrating his works together.
Do you know, if I could convey something, just something, in my preaching that could be used by God to stimulate a love for Christ in my hearers, I could die happy. I am relatively indifferent to whether or not they can remember my ‘points’. I just want them to love Christ.
Well written, Michael (whoever you are)! Read the rest here.