Our time is one of increased "spirituality" in which the humanistic arrogance of modernity, which sought to pave concrete over all mystery and grandeur (except for that which pointed to our own assumed excellencies), is giving way to an increased awareness that human beings are more than the sum total of our biological parts. The upshot of this, though, is that people are grasping on to anything that has even the scene of "the divine."
Therefore, the present eagerness of people to embrace spirituality must be matched by an equally authentic earnestness of the preacher, by which he asserts what the Christian message is, why it matters, and how it makes sense.
Charles Spurgeon, known as the "Prince of Preachers" in 19th century London, once told his ministry students, "If I were asked - What in a Christian minister is the most essential quality for securing success in winning souls for Christ? I should reply, 'earnestness': and if I were asked a second or third time, I should not vary the answer, for personal observation drives to the conclusion that, as a rule, real success is proportionate to the preacher's earnestness" (Lectures to My Students, 305).
|Trevor with John Piper in Raleigh, NC|
What he calls "blood-earnestness," he later brands as "gravity."
What's all this talk about blood, earnestness, and gravity?
Piper explains, "Intensity of feeling, the weight of argument, a deep and pervading solemnity of mind, a savor of the power of godliness, fervency of spirit, zeal for God - these are the marks of the 'gravity of preaching'" (Ibid., 54). This is also what I have in mind when I say "yearning."
This yearning for God to be glorified through the joyous obedience of his people was a hallmark of sticky preaching in the bygone era of the 17th and 18th centuries.
There's a story in circulation of a man who comes across David Hume, the 18th century philosopher, on the street one day in London. The man asked Hume where he was headed. Hume replied that he was going to hear George Whitefield preach. "But surely," his acquaintance asked, "you don't believe what Whitefield preaches, do you?" "No, I don't, " answered Hume, "but he does" (John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 269-270).
There is a direct connection between the conveyance of sincere passion and deep thought and sermons that resonate with people, draw them in, and keep them engaged.
There are many people among us whose lives consist of moving from one amusement to the next - paying, playing, and paying some more. For those who recognize that such a strategy for life offers a truncated version of lasting joy, an encounter with a message of love, restoration, and hope that calls them to something greater than themselves will be a welcome off-ramp back to "the land of the living."
People do not respond in meaningful ways to bare facts or trite slogans. Bare facts rarely make their way into the heart, and trite slogans rarely hold up in the face of trials. Instead, people respond when thoughtful arguments for truth are delivered with sincere passion and nuanced clarity, and supplemented with a life of humble authenticity to match.
The people of God assemble to hear a holy utterance that reshapes life for some, and reaffirms life for others. The thing they are not there to hear is a comedy routine full of meaningless one-liners.
So, as a pastor, you must use the sermon as an opportunity to plead and call for people to believe, become, and do that which brings honor and glory to God. To do anything less is to waste your breath and their time.
Sticky Sermons: Evolution of "The Stickiness Factor"
Elements of a STICKY Sermon - Scripture
Elements of a STICKY Sermon - Tension
Elements of a STICKY Sermon - Interaction
Elements of a STICKY Sermon - Challenge
Elements of a STICKY Sermon - Kerygma