OVER THIRTY-SEVEN plus years of ministry, I’ve occasionally heard various church members say, “Preacher, I think we need a sermon on_____________________.”
The subject suggestions have been as diverse as those who offered them. Frequently, but not always, the proposals leaned towards moral issues like modesty, sex, or beverage alcohol. Sometimes they gravitated more towards specific doctrinal issues like marriage and divorce, giving, or the oneness of the church.
I’ve always been curious as to what really prompts people to offer sermon suggestions in the first place. Sometimes I’ve been courageous enough to inquire as to why they think a particular message needs to be addressed.
What I’ve discovered from listening is that some brethren request specific sermons because they’ve got a burr in their saddle.
They’re aggravated with a fellow church member who doesn’t meet their own personal, dare I say it–Pharisaic expectations, and so sermon suggestions are tendered as a means of fixing folks. “So-and-so is doing this…and so you need to preach a good sermon on this”–whatever “this” may be.
I call these, “whippin’ or spanking sermons.” Whippin’ sermons are where I’m urged to preach on pet subjects and verbally whip a church member or members into submission.
In essence, Mike needs to tell off weak members via the pulpit in one glorious fire and brimstone message; he needs to correct folks and one whippin’ sermon will do the trick.
I’ve never been able to find many (if any) quick-fix, duct-tape, whippin’ sermons in the Bible. I do find occasions where some preached with improper motives (cf. Philippians 1:15-16), but even they didn’t reap immediate, instantaneous results.
What I do find in the Scriptures is where prophets and preachers did a lot of seed sowing (Luke 8:4-8; 11-15). They scattered the seed–Word, cultivated it, fertilized it, and watered it in anticipation of an eventual God-given harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Strange as it may sound, it is not a preacher’s job to fix anybody. Correct (2 Timothy 3:16-4:3), yes; fix, no. It’s not his job to tomahawk members of the body of Christ into compliance. Watch:
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition (emphasis mine – mb), if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:23-26).
It is a gospel preacher’s God-given responsibility is to scatter the precious Word–seed on different soils and then let God do his part (Isaiah 55:10-11).
A preacher knows the seed is good. He knows some soil is good. He also knows some soil will soften over time given the right conditions.
Have you ever heard of a person who listened to just one whippin’ sermon and obeyed in totality?
More likely what you’ve witnessed is that over time, with repetitive, consistent, loving seed-planting and instruction, as well as godly influence and patience (1 Peter 3:1-4), a person eventually came to the truth and made a successive, gradual change.
If either a preacher or a farmer forces seed on blacktop, you can be certain there won’t be any growth or legitimate conversion. That’s true in the field as well as in the pew.
Do I covet sermon suggestions? Absolutely! Do I intend to preach one-hit wonders so that somebody can vicariously get at somebody else in the assembly? Not for a minute.
Give that a thought the next time you find yourself saying, “Preacher, I think we need a sermon on____________________.” It may be that the person who really needs a whippin’ won’t be the “weak” brother in sin, but you.