What You Should Expect From A Sermon



It is not very often that I get to sit in a pew and listen to a sermon, for I am always the one standing in the pulpit speaking.  However, when I do get a chance to sit in the pew, I must confess that I have expectations of what I should hear – and you should too. 

For starters, when I listen to a sermon, I am not interested in being entertained.  Forget the movie quotes, leave out the predictable jokes, and please do not try to quote Lady Gaga lyrics!  If I want entertainment, I easily can watch a movie on Netflix or listen to music on my iPhone without leaving my home.  Oh, and do not try to be hip and relevant by using trendy cultural clich├ęs, it doesn’t work and is simply lame.  I am in the pew; tell me something that I can’t hear from ‘Entertainment Tonight’ or from the most recent ‘Avengers Movie.’   

When I listen to a sermon, I am not interested in a list of ‘how-to’s.’  If I am actually interested in ‘how-to’s,’ there always seems to be a new book or a TV talk-show guest who offers a particular version of self-help exercises to improve my life for $19.95.  I am in the pew; tell me something that I can’t hear from Oprah or Cosmopolitan Magazine, and please don’t point me back to myself to find the answers to all my problems or I might as well just stay on my living room couch. 

When I listen to a sermon, I am not interested in hearing a bunch of spiritual stories about the preacher.  Frankly, the life of that pastor is not my life and his life is not mine.  If I am interested in that pastor’s life and stories, I can go out for coffee with him and learn more about his life.  I am in the pew; tell me something more than the stories of a mere mortal man. 

When I listen to a sermon, I am not interested in hearing mainly about Democrats or Republicans or the most recent social cause or scandal.  If I am interested in these things, I can watch MSNBC or FoxNews.  I am in the pew; tell me something more than the repeated talking points of the Associated Press. 

When I listen to a sermon, what do I expect?  What should you expect? 

We should expect that sermons tell us about our sin – as uncomfortable as that makes us – and about the answer to our sin.  Yes, we need to be hammered with God’s Divine Law; our idols need to be exposed.  We need to be shown where we have failed in thought, word, and deed.  We are in the pew because we are broken and in need.

We then should expect to hear again and again about our baptism, the incarnation, justification, grace alone, and faith alone – the Gospel!  We should expect to be prepared to receive the very body and blood of our Lord and the life that it gives.  After all we are in the pew; we need to hear more than stories from a pastor’s life or what Lady Gaga, Entertainment Tonight, Cosmopolitan Magazine, or the news can say.  We desperately need and should expect to clearly hear God’s Word, the Word that delivers forgiveness, life, salvation, and hope into our hearts and minds.  We need and should expect to hear Christ Jesus: crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected – for you and for me. 

This is what I expect to hear in a sermon – this is what my soul needs to hear in a sermon and it is what you should expect and what your soul needs as well, for we simply do not and cannot hear a message such as this anywhere else.   


This article is published in The Sargent County Teller Newspaper: Milnor, ND (March 4, 2016)

To learn more on this subject: Discerning a Christ Centered Sermon


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