We’re all ears!

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.

8 thoughts on “We’re all ears!

  1. Lauri January 20, 2010 / 9:43 am

    I had a quick look at the CODEC website to see if they have a copy of the report and whether they talk about methodology. It has not been peer reviewed, it also costs a fiver a pop, which is a shame.

    Coming from a Psych/Sociology background I mistrust most “report” like this one. Given that it was administered (or at least seems to have been administered) by people with no formal training in this sort of research I am very sceptical indeed. It would have been nice to hear at least the sample size (for this sort of thing, to draw conclusions the size should be at least 2000 strong, if not stronger) and whether the sample was randomised, or where the questionnaire was administered.

    Having said that they have some pretty interesting people at the centre.

    An insightful comment at the end of Gledhills article said this: “Evangelicals, whose services may offer fewer visual alternatives, could encourage the counting of flies on the walls or similar, if the topic is too boring and too lengthy for most tastes. Even Samuel Pepys, in his “Diaries”, is on record as having concentrated on the movements of a flea on the wig of a lady seated in a pew previous to his own, rather than having been intellectually absorbed by the text of the sermon itself.”

    Your sermons don’t do that… Perks 😉

  2. Lauri January 20, 2010 / 9:58 am

    Just to be totally clear, what I meant by the last line was that , your sermons don’t cause undue wig stareage.

    • theurbanpastor January 20, 2010 / 10:03 am

      I’m not aware that any of my sermons have ever needed supplementing with this sort of distraction!! I don’t do boring. Heresy; sometimes. Boring; never!

      • theurbanpastor January 20, 2010 / 10:17 am

        you kind and generous man!

  3. Matt January 20, 2010 / 2:11 pm

    Bit wierd commenting on sermons of someone I’ve not heard “speak” since he was 18 ….

    However, to me the problem is not sermons. Lots of clever people can learn to give a good talk of between 10 and 60 minutes on any subject, and on most leadership training courses, that is exactly what you are expected to do. To me what the Church is lacking (and I only really have experience of Evangelical Anglican) is committed pastors, who do more than preach and handout bread/wine on Sundays.

    More and more clergy are treating their vocation as a job, and do not appear to have the people skills to be good shepherds to their parishes. A sermon may or may not introduce the word of God to us thickies, but the pastoral care we receive from our clergy shows us that it is more than words, it is a way of life. CofE has got VERY weak in this essential area…..

    • theurbanpastor January 20, 2010 / 3:34 pm

      Hey Matt
      Long time!
      Thanks for your comments.
      I think you’re right on the money and there’s every reason to take your comments on the chin.
      In my defence I’d only want to add that
      1. running a London congregation means that most of our ‘guys’ are at work during the day which limits contact time to evenings, which can get clogged up
      2. i’m amazed, only 7 years into the job, how much of my time is taken up with meetings; staff, apprentices, London Men’s Convention, A Passion for Life local meetings, South West London Gospel Partnership Meeting, informal meetings with staff to talk over their sermons, training and issues .. the time for sermon gets well and truly squashed
      Though I hear your comments and would hate if I neglected to go ‘house to house’ in order to see people, as Paul did (Acts 20). Though we tend to go ‘supper party to supper party’ in this neck of the woods!!

  4. Matt January 20, 2010 / 4:25 pm

    None of it is personally aimed!

    Most growing churches have a leadership team -whether fulltime or voluteer, but it seems we have got distracted by paperwork, and frequently neglect the people.

    In 1 TimothyPaul talks about the “leadership” traits for overseers and deacons – and then he fully expands on what he means in practice, and he concentrates on all the pastoral side of ministry Preaching is important, but it is only one part of Godly leadership

  5. theurbanpastor January 20, 2010 / 4:38 pm

    couldn’t agree more
    though I find paper more compliant than people!!!!!

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