When you are a Christian academic with a doctorate, many people assume that you are a seminarian and thus ask you to preach. During the past couple of years, I have been called upon to do it a few times and have always accepted because it just seems like the thing one should do.
Today, I had the chance to deliver a sermon at a Calvary Chapel service in Houston. I wrote out the whole thing, as I usually do, and then delivered it taking care to look up frequently and make eye contact. Upon finishing, I felt good. I tend to focus on disaffected young people because I always hope my lack of preacher training will result in a delivery different enough to get the attention of the kid who has heard it all a thousand times and is just waiting for his chance to stop going to church. It seemed to me that the sermon achieved the goal. The topic was the resurrection of Christ as the strong foundation of the Christian faith. My disaffected looking kid seemed to focus in on what I was saying.
I felt a little less good afterwards, though, because a man in the congregation sought me out to give me a detailed report card on the message and my style in delivering it. Although he was positive in his remarks, it troubled me a bit to put something like a sermon through the same kind of judgment process a food critic might apply to a meal. I mean, to me it felt a little more personal than that. And why would you ever assume that a speaker wants to go straight to the metaphorical telestrator to review his performance?
My sermons, because I am not a preacher and have no real theological training or training in homiletics, tend to begin from personal experiences in life or things I have learned along the way. From that point, I usually find my way into the scripture and try to drive the message home. My friendly critic remarked that I started out talking about just whatever and he was wondering “Where’s the verse? Where is he going with this?”
I have to say, the thing that worries me the most in preaching is the wary waiting judgment of this type of person who feels that the only thing of value that can come out of a sermon is basically expository preaching from the word of God. I wouldn’t seek to replace it. But there is room to say more, is there not? Isn’t there some value in personal testimony, in life experience, in reflecting upon literature, film, culture, etc.?
I’d love to hear from the peanut gallery on this one. And before doom descends upon me, I promise that I finished strong in the scripture with just about the full second half of the sermon.