I admit it: not every sermon is a winner. I would love to think that each sermon I preached inspired, but there are some days when the message that I hoped would ensure that the assembled group would rise as one, sprint into the world, and embody the Kingdom of God just kind of lies there between me and the congregation gasping for breath. It happens.
Having listened to more than a few sermons, I have sympathy for the recipients of the less-than-inspiring homily. The mind does tend to wander when you hear the preacher intone, “And now for my 12th point ….” Happily, there are resources available to support those who bear this burden with regularity. I recommend the old standard of counting the panels behind the preacher. I have a little gem of a book called, “101 Things To Do During A Dull Sermon” which we keep available in our church for such emergencies. It includes suggestions such as passing the organist a note asking if they take requests, pretending to pass out, seeing if a yawn really is contagious, or writing and passing on a note for someone named “Mathilda” having first ascertained that there doesn’t happen to be anyone named “Mathilda” in the congregation. Watch the note’s progress as it circles the room. Shouting “Amen!” at random times during the sermon is another creative possibility.
On the other hand, I would tend to recommend restraining yourself from the aforementioned responses because, as much fun as they might be, they don’t take into account that there might be someone other than you in the room, and God’s been know to use even the worst preacher. Moses comes to mind. So, if the sermon is not grabbing you, here are some tips for resuscitating the message of the day.
1. If the content is disturbing, try to figure out just what’s causing the offence. Is it bad preaching or is God actually challenging you?
2. Think of a reasoned argument back at what you are hearing. Are you addressing God or is it that individual having a bad day behind the pulpit? Knowing who you are disagreeing with may reveal much.
3. If it is poor preaching, how would you choose to interpret the Bible reading it’s based upon? [Hint: if you are not able to discern a Biblical text that undergirds a sermon, your preacher may be needing a rest] How would you offer this to a friend as good news?
4. It is always worth remembering that the sermon might not be the way God is wanting to communicate with you during this week’s service. God speaks in other ways—through communion, prayers, singing, even through the offering. Sometimes God even chooses to speak to us through a friend over coffee after the service.
Pray for the preacher. Please.