“Have you ever heard a good sermon? What made it good?” (John P. Lathrop)


BeritaMujizat.com – Teologi – At many Christian gatherings some kind of sermon or teaching is given. This is especially true of the Sunday morning worship service and the mid-week Bible study or prayer meeting, though it is certainly not limited to these gatherings. If you have been a Christian for a while you may have heard a person who is leaving one of these services say, “That was a good sermon.” The statement is a personal opinion. But what does it mean? What made the sermon good? And more importantly, was it a good sermon by biblical standards? Let’s consider these questions.

In general when we say something is good it means we like it. For example, I might go out to dinner with my wife. In the restaurant she orders fish and I order chicken. After tasting some of her food she might say “This fish is very good.” That means she likes it. It might also be of a very high quality. However, I will not share her enthusiasm regarding it because I do not like fish. It is not to my taste. This same principle can be seen in operation in the spiritual life.

When a person says that a sermon is good it means that it is to their liking. There was something about it that they enjoyed. It could have been the topic that was spoken about. For example, the sermon was about prayer and this person likes to learn about prayer. Or it was about end-time events and that topic fascinates this person.

However, the subject is not the only thing that might cause someone to call a sermon good. At times it is not the subject of the sermon that a person likes but the manner in which it was presented. The sermon was on the lighter side, it was humorous, and it contained good stories. Another person might say that a sermon was good based on its length, a short sermon is better than a long one (please note here that I did not say anything about the quality of what was said).

All of the things I have mentioned in this paragraph are personal preferences. Every topic in the Bible deserves to be preached on, but there are some topics we like more than others. The manner in which a sermon is delivered plays a part in how it is received. Humor has its place but it is not always appropriate. Short sermons can be good, but long sermons can also be good. But biblically speaking what would make a sermon good?

In 2 Timothy 4:2-5 Paul gives Timothy some instructions about preaching. I think that his words here give us an understanding of what God would see as a good sermon. At the beginning of this passage Paul tells Timothy to “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2 NIV). The content of a good sermon will be Scripture, the Word of God. People need to hear what God has said.

Part of the reason for this is that people need to hear truth; truth is sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3-4). While other material can be used in the course of a sermon to illustrate, or draw out, the meaning of a text, the primary topic is the content of the Bible itself. If this is not the case the sermon will lack substance and authority. Later in the same verse Paul told Timothy what to do with regard to the message he preached.

He told him to “correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2 NIV). In other words, he was to apply the message to those he preached to. The sermon is not to be merely a history lesson or a philosophical idea. It is to have relevance to the hearers. The goal of preaching is to make an impact on the way people think and act; it is meant to change them for the better.

One of the sad things about the text of 2 Timothy 4 is that Paul indicates many people will turn away from the truth. Please note: they will not turn away from sermons, but from the truth. They will find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. In other words they will be selective in their hearing, they will pick and choose what they will accept. This is contrary to Paul’s words, and practice, as set forth in Acts 20:27, in this verse he said he proclaimed “the whole will of God” (NIV). Second Timothy 4:4 tells us that the things some people want to hear are “myths” (NIV).

If you listen to sermons on a regular basis I trust you are a Christian and are connected to a local church in some way. As you listen to various teachings and sermons, whether in your home church or elsewhere, you will likely label some of them as good. But ask yourself why. What made me think this sermon was good? Was it the subject matter, the presentation, or the length? And then ask yourself, based on Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4 “Would God think this was a good sermon?” If a sermon is good, it will help you to change, it will help you to grow. So pay attention to the sermons you hear and ponder them. It may take you some time to realize the value of what you have heard.

John P. Lathrop – United States

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.


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