Monday, April 7, 2008

Similarities between Sex and Preaching or Was that Sermon as Good for you as it Was for Me?

Okay--so I couldn't resist using the word "Sex" in my Title. My Mother-in-Law works with a publishing company and says titles with the words "sex" or "Jesus" sell well. We have joked about coming up with a bestseller title that might include both words in the same Title!--Be creative.

But Seriously... as My Wife and I have continued rediscovering Gary Thomas' Devotions for a Sacred Marriage we came across a chapter on the importance of fellowship in marriage. The chapter begins with with an imagined conversation around one of the author's favorite marital activities--long walks. Parodying pop-cultural post sex talk cliches, Gary writes, "It would never occur to me after [a long walk in the woods] to immediately pelt Lisa with the question,

'So, was that an especially good walk?'
'What are you talking about?'
'Well, was that walk as good for you as it was for me?'
'Gary, have you lost your mind?'
'I want to know! Was that walk better than the last walk? Was it, maybe, the best walk you ever had?'

The point he makes is that such talk could cheapen and ruin any otherwise great experience. I wonder if this sometimes happens with preaching as well. To be honest, I often feel pressure (which I put on myself) to always preach my "best" sermon ever. It is a rush to deliver a good one, and I have to admit, that I would rather have compliments on my sermon than no comments at all. (The first sermon I preached at my first appointment solicited the comment from one congregant, "well, that's one down!)" I think if our church members are honest too, they look forward to good sermons.

And yet somehow it seems that if we enter into a worship experience to encounter God and the sermon is part of the vehicle for that experience--maybe we cheapen the experience by asking the question, "How good was that sermon?" That isn't to say I think it is wrong to put effort into making sermons good--certainly if the sermon is a vehicle which aids our encounter with God, it deserves hard work and reflection. But maybe we (I) do need to be careful not to find ourselves cheapening encounters with God with evaluation that boils down to something not far from, "wow, that was the best I've ever had."


Craig L. Adams said...

Well, and then it complicates the issue even further when we realize that a "good sermon" from the preacher's standpoint may not be the same thing as a "good sermon" from the hearers standpoint.

Rev. J said...

Eric, very interesting point. Almost every Sunday I look at my wife and ask her to evaluate my sermon, a simply, it was good, or too repetitive, is all I'm looking for. But you are right to ask does that cheapen it? Good post and I appreciate you getting me thinking.