Monday, February 20, 2017

Discerning a good sermon with the help of a Bishop

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s monthly magazine, Southern Cross, has published a brilliant article by Bishop Jensen.  The article appeared in the February 2017 edition.  While recovering from eye surgery, Bishop Jensen set himself the task of sampling recorded sermons of Senior Ministers of the Diocese.  The sample was unscientific in its method, yet at a sum of forty or so sermons, it was substantial.  The recorded sermons were readily available to the Bishop as numerous churches position their sermons for download.
free and unattributable

The article is noteworthy in that Bishop Jensen effectively communicates a means by which a pewsitter may discern the worth of a sermon.  I took to paraphrasing Bishop Jensen’s findings – six in total.  They establish an insightful checklist for the pewsitter in the pewsitter’s consumption of sermons.  The checklist is part of my own journey of considering sermon form and worth.  A post earlier this year about sermons preceded my own presentation of a sermon.  While the Bishop formed these findings for a purpose distinct from my own, I’ve tried to stay as true to the Bishop’s language as possible:

-        Expository sermons are worthy.  That means, that the sermon should expand upon the chosen text.  A precursor is that their is a chosen text (rather than say an odd collection of verses from throughout the Bible).  This is favourable to preachers “letting their own spiritual thoughts loose on the congregation, or preaching moralisms or headline news”.
-        A balance of preaching between Old Testament, The Gospels and Acts, and Pauline sources is sought.
-        Duration of sermon is tertiary to other matters such as biblical and spiritual maturity of the listener.
-        Exhortation (advice on how to apply the lesson) is necessary either woven through the sermon or towards the end of the sermon.
-        Exhortations to evangelise or to bring people to repentance need be common.
-        Preachers need to stay faithful to the passage.
Bishop Jensen offers his article as a means of providing unsolicited, and indirect, feedback to all preachers in the Diocese.  Because of the article’s indirectness it serves also to allow the pewsitter to determine how to assess his/her preacher.  Certainly, no-one wants the preacher who in Jensen’s words “preached himself rather than the text” nor the preacher who “focused on the secondary rather than the primary”.  In such vein, I’ve previously expressed concerned about a sermon that took an unusual turn around the preacher’s distaste of a piece of church building fabric.


Note: Jensen, a former Archbishop, took the title Bishop on ceasing to be Archbishop. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse used the address Bishop Jensen even where the Bishop largely addressed matters that arose during his time as Archbishop.
Note: I'm now a keen reader of another blog.  You may wish to take a look.  This blog considers matters of design.

1 comment:

  1. If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
    But, if you teach a man to fish ......
    Well, .....
    You've saved yourself a fish, haven't you!