Would your church cope with hearing preaching like Jesus? Has it ever struck you how very different the preaching of Jesus is to the preaching in the average church today? So much so, that if a young man came to your church to “preach with a view” like Jesus preached, I suspect he would be more likely to be politely thanked rather than asked to become your pastor.
In this post I will simply highlight some of the differences between the preaching of Jesus and many modern sermons. I’m not suggesting that we simply ditch all our modern ways and preach exactly like him, but it’s definitely a useful excercise to think about these differences and whether our ways are always the best.
To begin with a minor difference of posture: Jesus almost always preached sitting down, most modern preachers preach standing up.
Jesus’ preaching focused on the felt needs of his audiences, often starting from a question he was asked and demonstrating how he had come to set the captives free. Preachers today always start with a Bible passage, and often focus more on the message than its hearers.
Jesus preached sermons which had no obvious structure. Preachers today usually announce three points, which sometimes feature clever alliteration.
Jesus’ preaching was simple and used common language. Modern preaching is often complicated, using theological terms, sometimes without even explaining them.
Jesus’ preaching was full of stories. Some preachers today believe illustrations are unnecessary padding.
Jesus’ sermons were intensely practical and filled with “how to”s. Much modern preaching is all about abstract theological truths or denouncing the things that society is doing wrong.
Jesus referred to the Scripture of his day in passing, often citing verses out of context to make his point. Modern preaching prides itself on being expositional and working systematically through Bible passages.
Jesus preached with authority. Today’s preachers quote commentaries or other preachers as authorities to support their interpretations.Jesus often used hyperbole and exaggeration designed to shock and not be taken literally. Our congregations like to hear preaching that is measured, calm, and doesn’t raise eyebrows.
Jesus’ listeners would sit for hours to hear him raptly. Modern preaching tends to be limited to 45 minutes or less but still sends some people to sleep.
Jesus gathered crowds of thousands that would walk for miles just to hear him. Today we get suspicious of any preacher who can gather more than a couple of hundred people, suspecting he is being unfaithful in some way.
Jesus’ sermons changed lives. Our preaching fills notebooks.
Jesus’ sermons purpose was to save the lost. Our sermons are aimed at educating the saints.
Jesus crafted short memorable phrases that get his point across and can easily be used as tweets. Modern preachers often despise the age of soundbites as superficial.
Jesus’ preaching provoked both furious hatred towards him that got him killed, and adulation that spilled onto the streets. Many modern preachers are satisfied with a “that was a lovely sermon, Vicar” and rarely provoke anyone.
Jesus preaching laid out his personal unique claims, and calling people back to God through him. Our preaching often assumes all it’s hearers are already saved and rarely presses people for a response.
Jesus preaching was accompanied by dramatic miracles. Our sermons are followed by a rousing hymn or chorus.