Pastor Duane unloaded. “I don’t need to revolutionize the sermon time. I don’t need to entertain. I just preach the Word. Period. People need to sit and listen to the unadulterated Word of God proclaimed from my pulpit.”

That was Pastor Duane’s reaction to an announcement about a new book that suggests some ways to make sermon times more effective.

Allow me to respond to Pastor Duane.

Dear Pastor Duane:

I appreciate your desire not to denigrate the Sunday morning message time with anything inappropriate. And I resonate with your affirmation of the Word of the God, the scriptures. And, please understand, neither I nor millions of others in the pews have any argument with the “unadulterated Word of God” on Sunday morning. The scriptures communicate God’s life-giving power and love.

It’s not the Word of God that’s in question. It’s the words of Duane that are up for scrutiny. When you say you “preach the Word,” that may be true for the two minutes that you actually speak the actual words from scripture. The other 38 minutes you’re not preaching God’s Word. You’re preaching Duane’s words–your own interpretations and embellishments.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se, Pastor Duane. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that your words are well-considered, doctrinally sound, and well-prepared. But they are your words. They are not the “unadulterated Word of God.” They are, in fact, adulterated. And because of that, they–and you–have room for improvement.

When you say, “I just preach the Word,” it sometimes comes across as a defensive warning: “Don’t ever challenge my time in the pulpit. My words are God’s words. Period. Don’t mess with God.”

I’m afraid some preachers attempt to deify the sermon–to imply that this 30- or 40-minute lecture is itself hallowed, on equal ground with the Almighty. It is not. That’s not to say it can’t be very edifying and pleasing to God. But it is not God.

Now here’s the good news, Pastor Duane. If you’ll let go of the notion that your sermons are entirely the unadulterated Word of God, you’ll relieve a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself. And you’ll be free to consider some additional methods to deliver the message. You may even try some of the effective methods Jesus used, such as participative experiences, object lessons, and dialog.

Be open to grow. You’ll be better positioned to help your fellow humans grow–in their relationship with the Lord. And that, Pastor Duane, makes your role vital. 

God bless you and your important work.