This is fascinating. And totally unexpected. When I first read this I was surprised.
Surprised because I can’t be absolutely sure that 96.6% of our guys look forward to the sermon. At least not the beginning. Perhaps the end! I had three guys asleep in last Sunday morning’s offering on 1 Corinthians 9. And I thought I was electric!
The situation in many churches up and down the land is appalling. Ruth Gledhill writes
In many churches this most vibrant of moments has withered to little more than 20 minutes of tired droning that serves only to pad out the gap between hymns and lunch.
Her article reflects on the findings by the University of Durham’s College of Preachers. I concede that they have a vested interest in the results of their poll. But their results make for interesting and encouraging reading. Here are some choice quotes..
Evangelical Christians looked forward most to sermons
Get in!! Of course they did.
Roman Catholics were most keen on sermons that educated rather than challenged them. Baptists wanted sermons to convert them, Anglicans wanted to be entertained and members of the new, independent evangelical churches wanted to be challenged and encouraged.
Honestly, I don’t know what to say to that. Except that we’re Anglican Evangelicals. So apparently our guys are after entertaining, challenging and yet encouraging sermons. That’s not a million miles away from my aim to teach, rebuke, correct and train (2 Timothy 3:16).
Baptists and Catholics were also more enthusiastic about the Bible being mentioned in sermons than were Anglicans and Methodists.
Not in our Anglican church!
The ideal length of a sermon also seems to divide the denominations. While many Anglicans wanted less than ten minutes — although up to 20 minutes was fine if there was no “waffle” — some Baptists wanted to sit through at least an hour and a quarter. Catholics, by contrast, wanted their homilies to be completed within ten minutes.
I’ve always liked Baptists. I’m just warming up after 20 minutes!
In their report the Durham researchers admit to puzzlement that so many people looked forward to the sermons, and confess that more work was needed to find out why. The report questions whether people look forward to the sermon so much for the content, the engagement, the entertainment, the theology or simply that it gives them time to switch off.
Could it be that the people of God are predisposed to listening to what he has to say?
Just noticed that Al Mohler has commented on this article here.