No self-respecting pastor believes that their job on Sunday morning is to entertain the crowd. We’re not Broadway performers. We’re not comedians. We’re not candidates on Pastor’s Got Talent. Preachers haven’t been called to provide entertainment.
However, deep down inside, we do think about it. We may even want to be entertaining. We certainly don’t want our sermons to be boring. We want people to laugh. We want people rushing out the church doors screaming what a great message that was. In short, we want people to like our sermons. Or more accurately, we want people to like us.
The need to be liked brings plenty of anxiety because the pressure is placed on us to perform—and to perform well. Sometimes, the church places this unnecessary burden on pastors. Oftentimes, we place this on ourselves.
Whenever I’m about to deliver a sermon, I remind myself that I’m not there to entertain anybody. I’m not there to perform. I’m simply there to teach. And believe it or not, the congregation isn’t expecting you to entertain either. They came there that day to hear from God. And that’s something you should deliver.
Now does that mean our preaching can’t be interesting? Is our only option to succumb to boring sermons? I believe “being interesting” is a natural by-product of excellent teaching. We’re not trying to be interesting—we just happen to be so through a well-prepared and presented sermon. Here are a few things to consider to ease the tension of needing to be interesting and entertaining:
(1) Reveal the Bible. The Scriptures are naturally interesting and therefore, you don’t have to be. Simply discover what’s so interesting about the passage and how it impacts your audience. My systematic theology professor once commented, “I don’t understand why people find the Old Testament so boring. It’s full of sex and violence!” He certainly knew that interest was an intrinsic quality of the Scriptures.
(2) Aim for clarity. It really doesn’t matter if you were interesting. It doesn’t matter if you told a dozen jokes that made people laugh their heads off. If people walked away fuzzy about what God was saying, then all they got was entertainment. Once again, keep in mind that people came there to hear from God. Don’t sacrifice the clarity of the Scriptures just to make your sermon more interesting.
(3) Use good speaking methods. Interest (and sometimes entertainment) is a natural by-product of using good speaking methods. For example, the use of stories to make a key point concrete and memorable is also naturally interesting and entertaining at the same time. Just don’t confuse excellent teaching with entertainment. We aim to teach well—not to entertain.
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