Continued from Part 5
You’ll not find the term “bite” in a homiletics text. It was coined by my wife, Kathleen. She is a quiet person but there are times when she holds an idea with conviction and is moved to share it. One of those times came when she was serving breakfast to three or four ministers who were attending a Christian education seminar in a church nearby.
During the meal in our dining room that morning, the conversation turned to sermons. “The trouble with most sermons,” she told the visiting ministers, “is that they lack a bite.” The men were taken with the term and asked for an explanation.
She told them that earlier in her life when she attended a liberally oriented church, there were many good features to the services and the preachers often said uplifting things, but the sermons didn’t come out anywhere. They were little more than nice talks, giving the hearers something to think about. There was no application. This sort of preaching, she said, could actually inoculate people against the gospel.
Kathleen had been trained as a teacher. She knew, for example, that a lesson must have a beginning designed to capture interest, a middle that gives the essence of the lesson, and an ending that calls the children to do something to show they had taken the lesson in. For example, after a teacher has taught a third-grade class on the perils of pollution, he may list four things the children can do around the home to reduce the problem of pollution, urging their commitment to this new regimen.
What was missing in many a sermon, my wife contended, was this calling for some sort of response to show comprehension and agreement or the willingness to change.
A few days later, Kathleen got a call from one of the ministers, who lived 165 miles away. He said that after that breakfast conversation, he had gone home and reworked his Sunday-morning sermon and four people had responded to the invitation publicly. Later, another minister met her and told her that his preaching had not been the same since that breakfast table discussion.
Every sermon doesn’t have to call for a public response. That could get predictable and perhaps tedious. But every sermon should call its hearers to do something about the truth. Recently via television we’ve been educated in the way lawyers plead with great seriousness for a verdict. We preachers should do no less, making certain our sermons call for response.
We have looked at the six questions that we should ask of every sermon we preach: Is my sermon Biblical? Does it say one thing? Does it say it concretely? Does it say it relevantly? Do I expect to preach it under an anointing? And does it have a “bite”?
If we learn to answer these questions courageously, two things are sure to happen. First, when we know that we have preached poorly, even the commendations of a score of worshippers will not comfort us. And second, if we know in our hearts that we have preached well, we’ll not be downcast even if no one offers a word of appreciation.