By Jake Griesel
When the pastor closes in prayer, the service ends, and the congregation is dismissed, what’s the first thing you say about a great sermon?
Some of the things I hear (and I myself say) far too often:
“That was a great sermon.”
“He did a great job.”
“He’s a great preacher.”
In Afrikaans I am sometimes guilty of saying things like “hy’t dit regtig gebring vandag” (“he really brought it today”) or “hy’t gepreek soos ‘n masjien!” (“he preached like a machine!”).
These are ways of communicating our conviction over the message and expressing appreciation for its impact, but they betray a dangerously misguided perspective on the nature of the sermon and the role of the preacher.
Insightful exegesis, clear exposition, powerful rhetoric, coherent logic, colourful illustrations, precise vocabulary, and Spirit-fuelled passion are not the end but the means. We are not meant to read Paul’s tightly-woven argument in Romans and rave about the apostle as a brilliant theological logician. We are meant to read Romans and feel dead in our sin and separated from God; grasp that we are justified solely by faith in Christ; embrace our new position as children of God and servants of righteousness; and take up the gospel ethic in true spiritual community. We are meant to read Romans and believe afresh in the saving righteousness of Jesus Christ who forgives our sins, reconciles us to God, and binds us together in love.
The reader of Romans should not mainly say “What a great epistle!” but “What a great gospel!” – not “What a great speech!” but “What a great Saviour!”
The prophets spoke for God. Jesus spoke for his Father. The apostles spoke for Christ. And every true preacher of the gospel in our generation speaks the message of Christ from the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Impressive sermons are simply not the point.
When the Word of God is preached, hear the Word of God, and rejoice not in the cohesive outline or the colourful metaphors or the clever maxims but in the crucified and resurrected Saviour.
So the next time the pastor closes in prayer, the service ends, and the congregation is dismissed, don’t just say “What a great sermon!”, but say to yourself and to your friends, “What a great Saviour!”