Monday, March 27, 2006
The Making of a "Classic" Sermon
Great Preachin' Hammond Style
Joshua's post about pop-psychology vs. Biblical exegesis in preaching got me thinking. While growing up at FBCH, major staples of our spiritual diet were topical and personal illustration-saturated sermons. Here are some thoughts on the topic.
It has been said that the more things change the more they stay the same--this is certainly not always the case, but this statement did come to mind as I listened to a recent sermon from the First Baptist Church of Hammond. It was the Sunday morning sermon from March 12, 2006 entitled, "The Breakaway Moment". I have been told time and time again by current members of FBCH that the church is heading in a fresh direction and that many things are changing for the better. I certainly pray that this is the case, but a simple listen to many of the Sunday services broadcast from Hammond will quickly quell any glimmer of hope that these assertions are valid.
Jack Hyles was the infamous pastor of this church for over 4 decades and he created an insatiable appetite in his church members for "story hour" in place of weekly sound Biblical preaching.
I recently read a sermon Hyles preached on a Sunday evening entitled "Inferior Churches" and was reminded why he was so entertaining to listen to as a young and impressionable lad--his stories were second to none and his comedic timing was fabulous! In the aforementioned sermon he berates churches in the Bible as "inferior churches" because they did not win souls as Hyles thought they should. He goes on to brag ad nauseum about how FBCH was winning the lost like none other--thus the conclusion that FBCH was in fact NOT an inferior church but truly a superior church! One scripture is alluded to briefly and the rest of the 45 minute diatribe is nothing but personal illustrations and criticism of those who do not see things his way. The lack of scripture was tragic, but sadly I was not surprised.
Fast forward a few decades to the sermon I referenced earlier preached by Jack Schaap on March 12, 2006. I listened to this sermon desperately longing to hear something different--alas I found much of the same ingredients that were commonplace on Sibley Street during the Hyles era. The sermon begins with 12 minutes of fluff about personal situations before a scripture passage is even mentioned. Of course they all read a text before the performance began, but the scripture he mentions 12 minutes in isn't even from that text. I heard about all the marriage counseling that Dr. Schaap does on a weekly basis, I heard about all the teens in the youth group that come by his office on Saturday and "cut up" with him, I heard about all the negative influences we have in our lives (speeding tickets, angry drivers, terrorism, etc...), and I even heard a very familiar refrain when Schaap asks some "Brother Brian" who is sitting on the platform to stand on the stage and hold a glass half-full of water for his object lesson.
Some may say that this is just the style of preaching that these folks have chosen so get over it--I couldn't disagree more. Herein is one of the ways that the "image machine" works every week in Hammond. Preacher is an expert on everything--he is an expert on which churches are inferior and which churches are superior--he is an expert on marriage counseling and has pieced together scores of marriages--he is an expert on politics--he is an expert on how to deal with teenagers--he is an expert on everything that you struggle with and he will never tire of telling you just how wise he is! Here are my questions for you:
1. If he is an expert why does he have to keep reminding you about it?
2. Is he really an expert or is he a "self-proclaimed" expert?
3. Wouldn't you rather have the Word of God preached in a systematic and expository manner than hear favorite proof texts taken out of context wrapped neatly with silly personal illustrations?
I know which one I choose! How about you?
2 Timothy 4:2 KJV "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."