Does a Sermon Really Change Anybody?
May 25, 2010 § 18 Comments
Sometimes we may feel there is no point in preaching because we do not see the kinds of changes in our hearers or ourselves that we had hoped for. When this thought tip-toes down the dark hallways of our minds, we are helped to remember that preaching is like farming. We sweat through long days of ploughing and planting only to recline at the end of the day looking out over a barren field. Harvest doesn’t happen in a moment. Harvest happens through a series of necessary moments put together.
Preaching matters for more than its moment. There is always a point to preaching even if people do not respond or if you are not as different as you had hoped that week. Even in burned-out landscapes returning birds still sing. God’s glory is declared by beaks among the ash and all of us are reminded that more than ash still exists in the world. We speak in His presence. (2 Timothy 4:1-2) His presence attends our speaking (2 Corinthians 5:20). When a preacher preaches whether persons listen or not, a sign of God’s presence is given. The called human voice speaks of God and all will know that God had been among them (Ezekiel 2:5)
One can ignore the stop sign and drive headlong into the intersection. But this does not mean that the stop-sign was not helpfully present. Those who do the report will identify the presence of the sign and ask us what we made of it when we came barreling through. Or, consider a different scenario. We may have passed the exit we needed. But farther down our mistaken road we can come to our senses and turn around. Memory reminds us that we were once given a different road. The thought that the road is still there calls out to us. We turn and our way is more securely and finally found.
All is not lost when the after-sermon desert offers no water. This moment may have been meant to prepare some for what they have yet to face. It may be meant to call out to others months from now when they are more heedless or needy than they are today. It may serve as one more evidence of the hardness of one’s heart. It may serve as one more piece in a puzzle God is putting together for another–the picture will not complete for some time, but completeness will not happen without the corner-piece offered by the sermon today. Those who are changed seemingly in a moment by your sermon today have had multiple moments of God’s working prior. Take heart. There is seed there though it lay beneath the ground. Step out into the barren field dear friend, and pray for His rain to fall.