*This post was taken from Dr. Harrell’s website and is used by permission
Recently, I was musing about the fact that one hardly ever hears a real sermon anymore. Too many are copying the popular figures who primarily tell people how to be successful. They deal more with pop psychology and its issues than they do with the spiritual realities at the core of our human problems. It is an effort to fix things from the outside rather than getting them fixed on the inside. My recent comment to an individual was: “I wish I could hear someone simply preach a good, well-grounded sermon that deals with the Bible and spiritual issues.” “Whatever happened to old fashioned preaching?” I have come to believe that many of our “preachers” today aren’t really “called” by the Lord to do what they are emulating. The Call is essential to one’s ability to preach with the power which is given by the Holy Spirit. It is a well proven case that a person can stand in a pulpit and spew forth platitudes which will be declared as “a wonderful sermon” by people who have, themselves, forgotten what real Bible centered preaching is all about. A subsistence diet of “sermonettes” filled with cute stories and platitudes has left our churches decimated as pertaining to doctrine and truly inspired preaching. Many of today are downloading their sermons from a vast internet library of notable authors and works. I believe that what God intends and what Paul refers to in Romans 10 is that the people of God need a message from the man of God which is inspired by God Himself. It must come from the preacher’s heart and soul. As he studies the Word, the Lord will point out what He wants preached. He will also inspire that preacher and give him a message for God’s people in a particular time and place. The preacher should study the passage and develop, under God’s guidance, a message that will come from his heart and soul. It will be inspired by God, developed under His guidance and delivered to God’s people from the inner being of that preacher. If we have that then we have the proper thing. Don’t worry about the “show” or about how eloquent one is. Be a humble deliverer of the message and let God determine all the rest. He made you as you are to use you as you are and in a particular way.
The problem we are facing in great part is due to the fact that what was considered absolutely essential in the past…the Call…is not as important to many as the urge to be notable and important in some way. The search for a good, clean occupation which doesn’t require too much hard physical work but yet yields respect and notoriety is one of the driving impulses behind many entering the ministry today. A few years ago, I was talking with a man who was the pastor of a church which is weaker today than it was when the conversation took place. He told me that he didn’t understand what men were talking about when they spoke of “the Call.” He said that he had never had such an experience that those men talked about. His statement to me was: “I don’t know what you are talking about when you say “God’s Call” upon your life. The way I got into the ministry was that one day I was working for a company that was digging ditches to lay cable. It was hot and dirty and I decided then that I wasn’t going to spend my life doing such a thing. I determined that I was going to become a preacher and pastor a church. It was honorable. It was clean. It was respected. It was educational and intellectual. So, I decided that day that I was going to quit digging ditches and become a preacher.” “That was the “call” to me. It was just plain common sense and a personal decision.” This man is a good person. He has always treated me very nicely. I have nothing against him but he is trying to do something for which he has not been equipped and it is evident in his ministry. Going to the seminary and getting an education for ministry is not what is necessary to be equipped. It will help one immensely but it does not impart the “spark” that the Holy Spirit gives when one is genuinely called to preach by the Lord. An uneducated mountain preacher, truly called by God and invested with the Holy Spirit, who has never been far from his hollow has more power in the pulpit than a person with a Doctor of Philosophy degree but who has no sense of a divine call to God’s Work. The mountain preacher referenced has the necessary ingredient for delivering a Word from the Lord to the people. What we need today is more heaven inspired sermons and fewer lectures. The Presbyterian influence on our Southern Baptist Zion is producing young men who value the intellectual to the point that they hinder the spiritual. Their sermons and delivery are stilted. Carefully worded and compacted thoughts that seek to sound both spiritual and intellectual are their fare. Too many are copying the Calvinistic preachers of a by gone era who worded their sermons in such a way that one has to read a paragraph several times to capture the central thought. It all gets lost in the beautiful and convoluted rhetoric. Instead of just stating something in a simple fashion they word it such that the power is gone and the effectiveness is stunted. People leave the service unable to state a single thing they learned. They remember a “good sermon” well read and delivered but they carry very little with them into life. This is exactly why our churches are so bereft of Biblical understanding and so doctrinally ignorant.
I am simply amazed at the lack of doctrinal understanding of so many of our SBC churches and I place the blame directly on preachers who are trying to accomplish something without the proper power being imparted to them. Coupled with that is the fact that many are simply too lazy to spend the necessary time on sermon development and presentation. They compensate for that by downloading someone else’s sermonic materials and attempt to make them their own. I simply isn’t a word from the preacher but from someone else in another place and time. Using thoughts or statements attributed to another author is not what I am talking about. There is much value in the wisdom of others. But making a habit of using another’s sermon almost verbatim is not good. I have heard too many sermons that left me wondering what in the world the preacher was trying to say. I don’t think they knew themselves. They presented a hodgepodge of statements which made no sense in the way they were tied together and presented. The seminaries cannot teach a man to preach. That is imparted in the “Call.” And, that is the only place that the power to perform this supernatural task is acquired.
Part Two Coming Soon!