"Sermon transcription - Transcripts reach 3 times more people online because many just want answers, not sermons."
That blurb above appeared as an ad on my Facebook page. Facebook knows I'm a pastor and they load their advertising accordingly, or so they think. This ad strikes me as being absurd on a number of different levels.
First of all, I am skeptical that the average person with a functional working knowledge of the internet would read a sermon transcript. I would still consider myself to be a novice preacher and on a typical sermon my word count is about 3,000 words.
Is the average person actually going to look for a written transcript of a sermon and then read it? What criteria would they use to find a sermon? Search by preacher? By topic? By scripture text? I admit that I do all three, however I am searching for sermons as a part of preparing my own.
Realistically I think that if someone wanted to find a sermon for some sort of reason besides their own writing project they would locate an audio file. Then they could listen to it while also being engaged in some other activity, like posting on Facebook or playing Candy Crush.
Second, the above ad appeals to my sense of vanity. Not a good trait for a preacher to nurture. My role as a preacher is to feed those people God brings to my church on any given Sunday. That doesn't mean I don't do anything to bring people to my church, or conversely to bring God's Good News in Jesus to the people out in the community in which I live. But ultimately the number reached is in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and not me.
And third, the task of preaching is not to provide "answers" but to open the Bible and to bring out the message within its pages that God has for His people. This takes some work on the part of both the preacher and the listener. And it happens over time. Sunday by Sunday, month by month, year by year.
Many people can think back to a particular moment from a particular sermon that touched them but I believe that a more common experience is people who see that they have been shaped over time through a steady diet of biblical preaching.
According to the ad people may not want sermons, but it is my belief that they need them. I don't believe this because I am a preacher, but because I believe in that which should permeate all good preaching: the living breathing word of God found in the Bible.
This week I'll be preaching from John 1:14-18:
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known."
My intention in preaching from this text will be to bring something to my congregation that is more than simply "answers." I intend to bring the congregation a glimpse of the glory of God, the glory made known most profoundly in Christ Jesus.
Notes: The picture above is the pulpit of St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, the church where John Calvin preached. Here is a link to Calvin's commentaries, searchable by scripture text.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.