Friday, June 29, 2012

On Sermons

Me and sermons, we don't really get along.

Back in college Moody had a week every year called "Founder's Week", and famous pastors from around the country came in and spoke and all of our classes were cancelled. Everyone loved it and people drove from all over the city and suburbs to attend. The change of pace was nice but honestly? I slept through most of them. I even slept through Ravi Zacharias. Yeah, I was a dumb college kid that was spending more time socializing than sleeping, but still. It's really hard to hold my attention, even with the best of preachers.

It's partly generational. The whole "art" of preaching seems pretty put on to my generation. When I flip channels and can immediately tell from the lilt of the voice that it's a sermon, I'm immediately uninterested.

It's also that I'm a visual learner and a multi-tasking woman. When the preacher gets up and starts rolling I pay attention for a few minutes but then I begin looking at the hair styles around me, mentally putting together my recipe and  grocery list for the week, and considering where we might eat out after church, etc. It's SO HARD to actually be attentive to a sermon! Okay, okay, it's true. If I was really disciplined I'd probably be able to pay attention a lot better than I usually do. I struggle to feel the necessity of it when I benefit so much more from reading. In fact, if you printed out the sermons and I could just read them, we might all do better.

It helps dramatically when I take notes, at least it helps when the pastor actually has an outline. The main pastor at my church is a good speaker but notorious for rabbit trailing, to the extent that last week I started taking notes and then gave up because halfway into the sermon he'd given his first point and everything since was only vaguely related, even if it was all interesting stuff.

There have been a few pastors I've loved. My pastor in college was more of a teacher than a preacher. There were no tricks of the voice, just him talking and walking us through something that he was pondering and analyzing. I could follow that and I absolutely loved it.

Mostly, though, I just don't enjoy sermons at all.



Jaimie said...

Yeah, there's definitely an art to keeping our generation's attention. It's being genuine, succinct and self-defacing. At my new church, the pastor preaches sermons no longer than 30 minutes. It also doesn't hurt that he's a writer, I guess.

Rach said...

A-TO-THE-MEN. I deal with a lot of guilt for just not really getting/enjoying/paying that much attention to the sermon most weeks. Sometimes a great one will catch my attention and I'll love it, but that's the exception. And Founder's Week? I zoned, I slept, I whispered, I read homework, I doodled. Too much all at once. It is overwhelming.

However, some sermons are good. Short and sweet and no cliches help me pay attention.

junglewife said...

I do agree. I have a hard time concentrating on sermons. BUT, I have found that it helps immensely if I have something to do with my hands. Yes, taking notes helps. But I also like to knit :-) I haven't tried knitting in church yet, but Dan and I listen to downloaded sermons, and I have found that my listening abilities increase exponentially when I have some knitting in my hands, because it gives me something to focus on that really doesn't take much concentration. I am not sure if that makes sense or not. Some people might think I'm not paying attention because I'm knitting, but I'm actually able to pay MORE attention!

Melissa said...

for me it really depends on who is preaching/teaching if i can focus or not. sometimes i listen to every word and sometimes i find i can barely listen at all.
my international church has moved more in the direction of having small groups. we meet as a large group every other week and have small groups otherwise, so my small group has a lot of discussion, not really just listening to one person teach, which i like a lot.

Amy B said...

I don't mind sermons. It was actually one of the things that drew me away from Catholicism and towards Protestantism. All my life I had only ever heard 10 minute blurbs from the priest that consists mostly of some stories, a few platitudes, and some moralizing with out any conviction. So the first time I sat through a 40 minute sermon packed to the gills with theology and scripture, I was sold!

I also happen to like listening to lectures, so perhaps it is just part of my makeup.

That being said, I think we are far too rigidly attached to the sermon. It has become ensconced as a necessity, and therefore formulaic. Must we have one every week? And must it always be a certain length? And must it always be a one way street? I don't see why the weekly teaching time couldn't be a mix of sermons, discussions, sharing times, lectures, extended readings, etc. AND, if nothing else, please for the love, let the length of the sermon be determined by the material.

Amy B said...

@junglewife - a lady at our former church used to knit during the sermon. I always assumed she was paying attention, and I don't think anyone was put off by it. And if they were, they should mind their own beeswax! :o)

Kacie said...

I am apparently in good company! Maybe when we're overseas listening online i should draw while listening. I could see that working for me.

Sarah said...

I struggle with this too. Our pastor is brilliant and every week he preaches without any notes. But he's not very structured - no 4 point outline. And he doesn't use powerpoint, which would help this visual learner so much. He fully admits to being long-winded; he jokes about it a lot, actually.

I don't understand his pacing. It feels like he dwells too long on things I get immediately (and then my mind wanders and it's hard to jump back in) and goes quickly through parts I want to dwell on.

Every once in awhile he'll have a sermon called "Random Thoughts on ______." My husband and I joke that that's not any different than usual!

I have much respect for him and we love our church; the preaching just happens to be one of my least favorite aspects.