Reinforcing Societal Self-Centeredness, Or Why Sermons Are So 1677 (Part 4)

As I progress in this series about sermons, I’ve come to realize the issues I’m raising are more relevant to evangelical churches. I’m not against sermons per se, as one reader pointed out Jesus himself gave sermons, however I’m finding lots of issues in our modern interpretation of them. Today’s post is a case in point.

One of the worst accusations you can make about/to someone is that they are self-centered. It’s quite damning and devastating, and it leaves a sting that seems to follow you around like a speeding ticket. However I suspect that almost all of us are self-centered. Obviously some more than others, but it’s just too darn easy to get wrapped up in yourself.

But I wonder if the church perpetuates and even encourages (passively) self-centeredness.

Sermons are often all about you – what you can learn, what you can do to better yourself, what you need to do. It’s about your faith. What can happen subtly, subconsciously, is that we become self-centered people. After all that’s why we are at the church service – to see what we can get out of it. The role of a passive participant, especially one sitting in a chair just listening, allows ample opportunity to focus just on yourself.

So you’re probably wondering if sermons shouldn’t be about us then what the heck should they be about? I’m not pretending to offer a perfect solution or model but a guy named Jesus is my best answer. The only way we’re going to heal, they only way we’re going to learn love as our primary operating system is by meeting and knowing Jesus. We certainly try to will ourselves into being better people and Christians, and sometimes even get decent results, though that’s often just the buzz from a motivational speech yet to fade into a hangover. What I mean is we cannot save ourselves.

Do you think we are naturally self-centered? Do you agree some churches help feed this tendency? How can we keep sermons around and not allow them to feed self-centeredness?

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9 Responses to Reinforcing Societal Self-Centeredness, Or Why Sermons Are So 1677 (Part 4)

  1. Speaking (writing) as one whose whole livelihood is involved doing just what you write about here, I think there is a tendency to be self-centered. One way is seen in the “health/wealth” garbage. Where in the Bible does it say God wants us healthy and God wants us wealthy. If my understanding is correct, the opposite is more often true. God wants us lay down our health and wealth for Him. On your question: Paul said it best- “I want to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul’s sole purpose for doing what he did was to honor and glorify Jesus. Preaching is valid when that is the ultimate goal.

  2. Yes, yes, and by conscious effort on the part of sermonizers.

    (That’s my answers to your three questions…) 🙂

  3. theoldadam says:

    A sermon should use the law to paint us into a corner. To show us that we haven’t got a prayer to be what God made us to be and that we need a Savior. To show us that this world and ourselves are NOT progressing but are being brought to an end. And to tell us that that is not the last word.
    But that Christ Jesus has another word. “Your sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake and He will one day raise you to a new and everlasting life…in Him.

    There…I just did a sermon. The way (in miniature) that it ought to be done.

  4. David says:

    Now you are on to something! The whole spectator church/pulpit star model is the result of religion, not of knowing Jesus.

    Do you think we are naturally self-centered? Of course, it starts at birth! We scream, mommy brings us some milk, so we scream louder and get more milk.

    Do you agree some churches help feed this tendency? Yes. The formula driven church breeds this because it excludes God for the most part. It is often just men who think they know what God wants. That is why it makes me crazy when people, churches and denominations decide what part of the Bible is no longer relevant. We have dispensed with the spiritual gifts in most places, made up all sorts of reason why we can’t have the 5-fold ministry (Eph 4:11) in place, and then we try to live like Old Testament Law folks. Of course the whole WWJD is nuts too. He lived under the law, so doing what Jesus did is bondage! It was only after his death and resurrection that the new convent was ready for action! He fulfilled the law so that that we could live in grace. Paul’s writings are the most important because they are a guide to living in the New Covenant, the life of Jesus was a lesson in fulfilling the law.

    How can we keep sermons around and not allow them to feed self-centeredness? We simply must be led by the spirit (1 Cor 14) and let our gatherings, whether large or small, be led by God’s spirit. Anything else is dead religion and will only reproduce fleshly fruit and eventually a generation of unbelievers.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Really, Charlie? You think that calling someone self-centered is one of the worst accusations? Wow. I regularly call myself “extremely selfish and self-centered”. It is not a badge I wear with pride. Neither is it a blunt object that I beat myself with. I’ve just learned a lot about myself. I’m getting much better at doing things for the Lord, but still, most of the time my motivations are about a pay-off. Seriously. My giving my life to Christ was not an altruistic act. I sought Him because I knew I needed salvation and He was the only way to get there. There was something in it for me. I’m often compassionate and giving, but again, I do it because it makes ME feel good to help people. I have found some of the joy that the Bible directs us towards and I want more of it, so I do what it takes to get more of it. Sometimes I manage a foray into The Land Beyond The End Of My Nose, but not nearly as often I would like. I think the worst accusation you could level at me is that I’m a sinner. That is the worst because it is what cuts me off from God. And there are many people outside of the church who don’t want anything to do with the church because they don’t like that label or what it means. Unfortunately, there are many people in the church who don’t want to deal with it either. I am very thankful that God provided me a way to deal with my sin and a way to be reconciled to Him. I think not wanting to be told we are self-centered is just a way of avoiding looking at our fallen nature. That may be harsh, but I don’t think it makes it less true. So yes, I think we are naturally self-centered. I think Christ came to save us from ourselves in a manner of speaking. Do I think some churches reinforce this? Yes, I do. I think there are some churches that have become a perpetual self-help seminar. “Look! Here’s what you can do for YOURSELF today!” As for sermons, they should be about proclaiming the Gospel – Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. If people need help applying Christian principles to their lives, that might be where teaching (instead of preaching) comes in. This is my not-so-humble opinion. Amen. 🙂

    • hot dog! You brought it! This was equal parts brillant and poetic. And The Land Beyond The End of My Nose – you should trademark that before you see it on bookshelves in a year as the hottest Christian memoir.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong approaching God with selfish reasons – we all come to him in need. He’s certainly not expecting us to come to with with our issues pre-resolved. But, we rarely stay the same and our selfishness is usually squarely in his sights.

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