Saturday 10 June 2017


So you've found your church. Got in at the right time. Got all the pieces of paper. Realised how to work them to sing the right thing at the right time.

There will be some readings. Maybe I'll come back to how to perform these. But for the time being let's take them as read. And then - just as you're dozing off and wondering when you'll get some of that delicious "Value" free-trade instant coffee - there's a sermon.

I mean, obviously you could just doze. That's always an option. But if you're new to church, you might want to learn something about this whole Christianity thing - and I guess statistically you've as much chance of that during the sermon as any other time. The Bible has many different viewpoints in many modes of writing. So you're gonna want any tips you can get.

But on the other hand you early on want to define what kind of preaching method the preacher has. That's going to tell you where in future you can doze off every Sunday, or whether there might be something worth listening to. Or, if you want to sleep and they will wake you up every week. In which case you might want to consider a new church.

By the way - be warned. Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday.  This is never a good week to judge the vicar or chief pastor's preaching. Either they'll tie themselves in knots trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity or, more likely, they'll be taking their early summer day Sunday off and have left some other schmuck to do it.

Be aware that the following types of preacher are not mutually exclusive. This is more like a pandimensional Venn diagram in many colours

The Shouter

The Shouter shouts. The Gospel is exciting, don't get me wrong. And the Shouter DOESN'T WANT YOU TO MISS OUT ON THE EXCITEMENT. The hardest preacher to sleep through.

"All about me"

"All about me" will use whichever text the Bible is being used to illustrate their own genius and saintliness. Nothing Paul did will not have a  parallel. The witty wisdom they employed within their former or current workplace is astounding. Their speaking of truth to power a wonder. You will often wonder why they get so beaten up at PCC meetings.

All Greek

Every now and then it is acceptable to explain a tricky term with reference to the original Greek (assuming you're preaching from the New Testament). After all, much of our theology was first worked out in Greek. But every week is a bit much. Especially if the minister us confusing terms. Perichoresis, for instance, doesn't mean what a lot of people would like it to mean.  And it can be translated in such a way as to provide a visual image the congregation really doesn't need. Having said which, that particular image might stop you falling asleep if the preacher does use it.


What is it about preaching that brings out the worst in people's voices?  OK, the reason bishops lay hands on ordinands is to such the regional accents out of their bodies and replace them with Received Pronunciation But even so. Posh, singsong, with odd high and low notes. If you have a preacher like this, don't leave the church. Record them and email them the mp3s. It should soon change.

Biblical Exposition

If the minister asks you to turn to James 1 or whatever, and then takes you though line by line - ask them to send out Bible Reading notes instead. That should bring Sunday lunch forward by half an hour.

Charismatic Chris

Charismatic Chris won't preach from notes. Mostly because Charismatic Chris has not prepared in any normal way for the sermon - preferring to depend upon the Lord Charismatic Chris has either been very blessed by the Lord, and you will be too - or else you will hear the same sermon every week. Probably something that, whatever the reading was, will end up somewhere around John 3:16.

"It's behind you" 

I'm not sure there's any harm in inviting responses from the congregation from time to time. But catchphrases can get a bit wearing. "What does the Lord do?" / "Set you free" - every week - might just  do your head.  And again - in a congregational setting - you can't settle down for a nap.  If everyone knows they have to do the Mexican wave every time the minister shouts "God loves you," you can't relax.

"Preaching for a Decision" 

Here's a clue. If the chapel contains 4 ageing Methodists, who've been to church for the last 83 years, the preacher don't need to have an altar call every week. Maybe just after one dies when it concentrates the mind. If your minister calls everyone to the front ever week - go for it.  If you go forward every single time, eventually they're gonna stop.

"What would Jesus do?"

Very hard to tell. We're dealing with a time gap of 20 centuries and a totally different mind set.

Five Minute Sermons

No use to anyone. Recommended by quires.

1 comment :

  1. Damn. You've evidently been to a church where I have been preaching on some long-past Trinity Sunday using that dratted Greek word, and witnessed a dramtic presentation on the dance of the Trinity, accompanied by a Boccherini Minuet... Sorry!


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