How Sermons Age

This is so good I swiped the whole thing from my friend Fr Rob Merola:

You have any to add?


The other morning I found myself thinking about the difference in perspective the years can make, and how that might also make a difference in sermons preached.

A Young Person’s Sermon                        A Not As Young Person’s Sermon

How to Live Without Regret                                         How to Live With It
How to Live With Those we Love.                              How to Live Without Them
I Slew Goliath with the Sling and Stone.                  May our Warring Cease.
Becoming the Me I Want to Be.                                   Accepting the Me I Am.
This We Believe.                                                                What if I Don’t?
Money, Sex, and Power.                                                 Love.
By Grace Alone                                                                   By Grace Alone

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  • John W Frye

    Young Sermon Old Sermon
    Four Keys to Success Four Keys to Servanthood

  • How to Escape Temptation How to Endure Temptation

    Effectiveness In Prayer Steadfastness In Prayer

  • I think this is my single favourite Jesus Creed blog yet!

  • (Even if it was Fr. Rob’s)

  • J. Swartz

    How old is does one need to be before they’re “A Not as Young Person.” I’ll be 31 tomorrow and I find that I preach (and generally live) more often from the “not as young” side. Does that mean I’m old?!

  • I think it was E.M. Bounds who said, “It takes 21 years to write a sermon because it takes 21 years to make a man.”

    I think Fr. Rob is onto something. The best is yet to come!

  • (Speaking as a young preacher) – is this not pretty dismissive of young people? Not sure I like it.

  • rjs


    It is a reflection of acquired wisdom by “used to be young” people remembering.

    Is that dismissive?

  • Ian Kirk

    I see most of this as the disciple (or seeking to be one) approach versus the church growth approach. A lot of the “older” preachers are teaching the “younger” preachers, so what does that say about that?

    Yes, @RJS, I consider it dismissive. One of the most powerful sermons I recall was spoken by a young man who was 16 or 17 at the time. There is a reason Paul encouraged Timothy to not accept being dismissed because of his age.

    Think about Bethany Hamilton, Cassie Bernall, Rachel Scott whose lives (I just noticed that they’re all female) and deaths (in the case of the last two) were sermons in and of themselves. How many American adults can say the same? I’m not sure I can.

    I know that this is not intended to be young preacher bashing. However, it is (and should be) American preacher bashing of those who seek a short-term sermon (both preacher and hearer) without a changed life. Before knocking the young preacher, think about the fact that they are responding to the “needs” of their people (like they’ve been taught). It is their inexperience in regards to pleasing people, not God, that matters. Perhaps every preacher should be taught from Isaiah, who experienced almost no repentance by the people (I think it was 2 or 3), but continued to faithfully deliver God’s word to people who didn’t want to hear it.

  • rjs


    I cannot follow what you are trying to say – other than affirming that you think that the original post was dismissive of younger preachers.

    Paul told Timothy to not accept being dismissed because of his age – but he didn’t refrain from offering advice, nor did he tell him that he had “arrived.” Even Paul himself reflects on the process as a journey, a race. He learns and grows, his perspective changes in the letters.

    I actually don’t find most of the titles in the original post dismissive, nor are they in general reflective of “better” or “worse” – “foolish” or “wise” – many are just a change in perspective. And I don’t see most of it as having anything at all to do with a disciple vs church growth approach.

    In fact the wise young preacher would look at such a list asking – what can I learn? (and the wise older preacher asks exactly the same question).

    We live with regret – because the years add regret, for all of us.

    We live without those we love because they have died.

    Accepting the me I am … perhaps somewhat dismissive, but really more a realization that there is no more time to become the me I wish I was.

  • Scot McKnight

    James and Ian,

    No this is not dismissive at all — dismissive disregards. This post was by a fellow pastor, one who knows over time his themes have matured. That is not a way to put down the themes of younger but to speak as a 50 yr old (I think Fr Rob is about 50) on what he has learned.

    I would urge you to listen to the wisdom of a veteran pastor who has been at it for a long time. He’s got something valuable here for you to consider.

  • Amy

    My question from this would be, how do we take in these perspectives and understand how to create relate-able and God-honoring messages that would encourage and challenge a congregation assuming a diversity of age is present?

    Can both sides be preached or is there a middle ground? I personally want to hear both sides. Tell me how to live peacefully, but encourage me not to give up when fighting the “giants” that want to tear me down. Teach me how to be content, but don’t let me settle for less.

    Cool to see the common ground of “by grace alone” that weaves through it all.

  • Nick Buck

    Interesting – those “young” sermons on the left sound like John Maxwell/John Ortberg books while those on the right sound like Shane Claiborne/Don Miller/Rob Bell ones. Seems to me this has less to do with age and more to do with generation…

  • PastorM

    It struck me that all but the last title–the same on both lists–were “all about me” without much about God.

  • Rob

    Scot, part of my reason in writing this see if this rings true for others as well. Thanks for your help with this in giving it a wider audience. And thanks to everyone for commenting–I appreciate reading your thoughts accordingly.

    In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, every sermon title on the left is an actual title of sermons I have heard preached (often many times in many different places) and have, in one form or another, preached myself. There is one exception, however, and that is “I Slew David With The Sling and Stone.”

    This is a line in a song by Mewithoutyou called “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room”. It’s sort of an alternate imagining of King’s David death, and in it, he does not age well. It got me to thinking that I could well be that man, which led me to think more about how I personally could do a better job of aging. And that got me thinking about the post above–which by and large is quite personal–“a” preacher’s sermons, not “the” preacher’s sermons.

  • Richard

    @ 13

    I agree. Great observation. It seems like the the column on the right reflects humility and maturity (the ability to nuance and hold tension), which often corresponds with age but isn’t guaranteed by it.