Why did I ask you all these questions? It is a way of helping you discern what you are actually feeding (or being fed) week after week. In, what is called the McDonaldization of the Church, more and more “fast-food” type sermons are been preached from the pulpits of churches around the world. These sermons are very (artificially) flavourful, but they are not necessarily nutritious. Most of the ingredients used have already been processed, only a small portion is original. By this I mean that preachers, who are very busy people to begin with, are resorting to using materials of other pastors – well-known ones, especially – tweaking them and making them their own. How many pastors do what the first apostles did: devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word? Few, I can tell you that.
Many pastors feel their sermons need to cover a wide-range of subjects so as to cater for the diversity interests and needs in the congregation. While this is true, we must be careful not to make the pulpit schedule look like the magazine section in a bookstore where they is something for almost everyone. The pulpit cannot be used to tickle the ears of the people. It must be an instrument in God’s hands to conviction hearts of sinners by the Holy Spirit. Before you think that by “sinner” I only mean the unbelievers, I want to say that I am referring to Christians as well. Many Christians still have need of repentance of many things in their lives. The revivals of old all started this way: by preachers preaching sin and repentance to citizens of what was a Christian nation (England and America). If a revival is what you want, pastor, then I suggest that you start preaching on sin and repentance. You will be unpopular on earth, but at least you will be popular in heaven.
Scott Thumma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn., says the slow church movement makes for good theology. “We’d all like to have a slow-cooked, three-hour meal, with locally grown produce,” he said. “But few of us have the time or money for it.” But a slow-cooked meal is exactly what Christians need.
While I was helping pastors in Central Asia, one of the most common laments I hears from pastors is this: “I spent hours preparing the sermon every week, and every Sunday I deliver them with all my heart and soul, yet my people are not growing. What went wrong?” I did not have the answer, but I knew who did. God. So I asked Him, and this was what He said to me. “It is good that pastors spend hours each week preparing the sermon. The time spent studying and meditating on the Scripture had helped them internalize My Word. But in one hour (or thereabouts) it was discharged on Sunday. The people were hearing it for the first time. This week, they might be hearing about faith; the next, they might be hearing about prayer; and the next on something else. How do you expect them to be firmly rooted in My word if you keep changing the topic every Sunday. It is like changing the soil constantly. The plant needs time to sink its roots into the soil and be nourished by it.” I shared this with the pastors but, as they say, old habits die hard.
Even if no one was going to do it, I decided that I would be the first. After all, how can I tell others to do what I myself have not tried. So I preached to my people on righteousness for three months, repeating basically preaching the same sermon in different ways, changing the order of the points each time. After three months, I began to see that they are getting it and starting to live it. It was then that I felt they were ready for something else.