Last week I introduced my first ever formal series asking questions about our beloved church tradition of hearing semons every week, which I’ll be posting (coincidentally) weekly until you unsubscribe.
The classic image of going to church in America is of well-dressed people sitting in purple-cushioned pews, and of most of the men nearly whacking their heads on said pews. As a kid I certainly fell asleep during the sermon, and my body even learned to lean towards my father who wouldn’t startle me away with a well-aimed poke like my mother.
We’ve known for years that people don’t learn through hearing and speeches. If they do, repetition is the key. Like, a lot of it. This is why communications professors in college pound into their students’ brains that they need to incorporate other mediums into their speech. Yet for some reason every church I’ve ever attended, including ones I’ve visited just once, feature a minimum 30 minute sermon.
Sure, these days you gotta have a sweet sermon trailer or video to start things off, but after that it’s all talk talk talk, aside from an occasional Lord of The Rings scene shown (which for the record are lost on me as I’ve never seen any of the movies).
If you’ve gone through college how many lectures do you remember? I loved my chosen field of study (sociology), however 5 years later I don’t think I can name that same number of lectures I remember. You could argue they became embedded in me, even if I don’t overtly remember them, but even then I don’t think I retained much of what I learned. And I had to study it over and over again post lecture in order to pass the class, so the stakes were much higher than a Sunday morning sermon.
Similarly, we learn from doing, not hearing – and sermons offer little opportunity for us to do what we’ve learned. We must be dedicated and independent – trying it out without any further direction from our teacher. Instead, most of us just leave church having gotten our fill.
To connect with last week’s point – we’ve chosen our method of discipleship as education. And though we most certainly learn to be disciples this is something that’s best passed down like an apprenticeship rather than broadcast and wrapped in bullet points.
Have you ever seen a sermon time that wasn’t so heavy on education or used participation? Do you retain what you learn from sermons?
Disclaimer: as with my of the points I make in this series please know I’m not throwing the whole sermon thing out, but rather I’m point out some flaws so that if we continue to use the sermon it’ll be more balanced.