…I’m not denying the role sermons play in the life of a church community – my point, however poorly made, is that if you are a church leader and think you are going to grow disciples by preaching @ them rather than being in relationship with them, then you are simply wrong.
Here’s my two cents…
On the whole, I agree with Bill. You can’t expect to create people who are being transformed into the shape of Jesus by sermon-ing at them for 45-60 minuets a week (or minutes if you prefer). Even if you take 30 or 40 hours a week to study and craft your presentation sermon, preaching at people, sermonizing to them, and talking passionately about theological or life application truth will not fulfill the call of the Great Commission to, “Go… make disciples… teaching them to obey all I have commanded.” Creating disciples comes out of relationship. And no matter how good your sermon is, most of the time most of the people aren’t going to remember most of what you said. I would go as far as to say that your sermon will very, very, very rarely bring about the response your really wanting: to make disciples.
Now, I am more ready and willing than most to pitch the weekly traditional sermon right out the window. I’m all for re-imagining the weekly 40 minute presentation in 5 easy bullet points. However, I am not ready to give up routine preaching of the gospel as essential in the rhythm of creating and maintaining health in the life of discipleship. While your weekly sermon alone isn’t going to bring people into a place of walking in the steps of and doing the actions of Jesus, your preaching the gospel week in and week out is a healthy part of forming healthy disciples.
Regular gathering together to hear God’s self revelation, the story of salvation, and our call to mission is formative: it forms a gathering of believers into a community that walks the life of discipleship with each other and wrestles together with the message, the implications, and our response to scripture. Ultimately, no disciple of Jesus is formed in a solo environment. Our relationships may (and should!) run deeper with specific people, but it is the whole community we are part of that will most influence the direction of our overall life with Jesus.
So, while your sermon on any given (or even all the given) Sunday might not create a single disciple, the weekly, rhythmic preaching of the Gospel does bind a group of disciples together, helping them identify more with each other and more with Jesus. Sure, I’m probably going to encourage you to re-imagine the way you preach, maybe go more interactive, maybe leave room for questions, maybe just shortening your sermon… but keep preaching the Gospel to the congregation you have been entrusted with.
Preaching is one tool of many used to encourage, teach, equip, and shape a community as a whole so that the individuals of the community may go and make disciples… this includes you Pastor. You are called to be a disciple and to make disciples as well. In fact, I would say if your sermons aren’t birthed out of a life of discipleship (being one and making others) your probably missing some big pieces in your sermon.