One time after guest preaching at a Friday night service, someone sauntered up, shook my hand with both of his, and said with all sincerity, “That was a great speech.” On some level I knew he was a baby Christian, but on a deeper level I knew I had failed my task.
When we teach or preach or listen to a sermon, it is absolutely difficult not to view it as a performance or pep rally. At conferences we “grade” the speaker like an Amazon rating and consider it a badge of doctrinal authority if we download certain podcasts. People also naturally float towards charisma, adrenaline, and spiritual highs. The funny speaker is seen as the true speaker. And while humor, passion, and personality can be used to draw people in, ultimately it must be towards Jesus alone. A speech speaks on itself; a sermon points to Him.
I understand this is hard to sort out, particularly in a consumerist culture that treats even the church like winetasting. It’s a struggle for both pastors and churchgoers to draw that line. So here are three major differences between a sermon and a speech to give us discernment for both preachers and the congregation.
Former atheist/agnostic, now a pastor and professional rambler. Have a B.A. in Psychology and M.Div from SEBTS. Both degrees negate each other, i.e. I'm still a dummy. Have a fifth degree black belt and I can eat five lbs. of steak in one sitting. A recovered porn addict, skeptical Christian, loves Jesus. I gave away half my salary in 2012 to fight human trafficking, and you can help. Have a mixed German shepherd named Rosco, have two toenails growing out of one toe, and I'm addicted to coffee, ginger ale, and tomato juice.
Christ Is King.