I was in a recent conversation on preaching, and my conversation partner shared the story of a friend whose pastor used a very odd illustration during the sermon. Now, the point of the sermon was not remembered, but the illustration was. And it is this, “Men’s brains are like waffles, stuff is all spread out and separated into little squares of information. Women’s brains are like spaghetti, all the thoughts get tangled, and they can pull the individual thought noodle out whenever they want, even years later.” Now that is offensive to men and women, and I think for Christian preaching. Waffles and spaghetti noodles? Talk about empty carbs!
I cannot imagine that being shared from any pulpit. Of course, I was not present, but I struggle to discern what point is being made, what text was being read, or that it had anything to do with the Gospel of Christ. Speaking from my experience in this corner of the world, it is also symptomatic of a problem that I have seen in preaching across the board over the past decade, that of not knowing what the content of preaching should be. It is as if preaching, at least in the big box churches and the mainlines, is becoming either a commentary on the national news or a summation of the latest ideas from the Barnes & Noble religion section. The categories of which are: self-help, marriage help, parenting help, bestest life now, financial management, preachers working out personal issues, or political issues under the guise of being “prophetic”.
Now, I am not saying some of these are not worthy of pastoral attention, but they are not the content of Christian preaching. The content of Christian preaching, if I may be so bold, is Christ. In the life of the local church, there is a place for marriage and family training, there is a place to discuss politics, there is a place to teach personal finance, but all of these should not receive pride of place in the Sermon.
For those of us given the terrible responsibility to stand before a congregation at worship, we would do best to remember to focus on the Word of God, and point away from ourselves and to Christ Jesus and our salvation, reconciliation, to the Father, through Him and in the Holy Spirit. Of course, this means that Dogma and doctrine are important in our preaching, as is the state of our personal relationship with Him. We can even preach about the necessity of virtuous life and wrestling with the passions, but these do not change the core content of pointing to Christ.
To reiterate our sermons are not about self-help, politics, or really cool quotes and stories we find and want to tell. People should remember not the stories or the tidbits, but that they heard the Word of Life and were pointed to Him in whom is our life.
As we move toward Lent, all of us who are called to preach, should take stock of our messages and see where we are pointing. The Body of Christ needs less carbs and more meat!