Why Do We Listen to a Sermon at Church Each Sunday?

Why Do We Listen to a Sermon at Church Each Sunday?

The Bible offers little support for a minister to preach a sermon to us at church

Many changes occurred in church practices because of the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. One of those changes adjusted the emphasis of the Sunday service. The reformers had concern over the focus of Sunday gatherings being on the altar and the celebration of the Eucharist. They intentionally shifted the focus away from that and to the sermon. I understand why they did it, but I think they were wrong.

When Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, NIV), he provided the basis for us to celebrate communion. This gives biblical support for us to periodically observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our gatherings, be it on Sundays or at other times.

However, I don’t see any biblical command to have a paid minister preach a sermon to a local congregation each Sunday. In fact, I see little biblical support for this. Here’s what I do see in the Bible:

Preach to Those Outside the Church: Jesus told his followers to go around and tell others about him. He said to “preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15, NIV). Here’s a direct command from Jesus to preach, but the setting isn’t inside the church walls, it’s outside the confines of the church, in the real world. Although this gives a command to preach, we miss the point. The teaching Jesus talks about isn’t to those who are already on his team, it’s to those who aren’t.

Teach New Converts: In Acts we see the apostles holding regular classes to teach about what it means to follow Jesus (Acts 2:42). Since back then almost everyone was new to the faith, think of this as a new members class. Note that this is an example of what the church did, not a command to do it. This teaching is optional, but if we do it the focus is likely on new converts.

Give Updates: Another example in the New Testament of people speaking to local congregations is when traveling missionaries or church delegations visited local churches. They spoke to the people to update them on what was happening elsewhere and to share stories of God at work. The purpose of these talks seems to be to offer status reports and provide encouragement. Again we see this as an example of what the early church did, but there’s no command for us to do likewise.

In these three scenarios we see people speaking either in the church or outside it. But nowhere do we see a command for clergy to preach to a local congregation in church each Sunday. So why, then, do we have a weekly sermon?The people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. Click To Tweet

What should we do differently?

Paul answers this in his letter to the church in Corinth. He says when we gather together each person should be ready to share a song, teaching, revelation, tongue, or interpretation. The purpose of this is to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Paul’s instruction, his command, is that the people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. With such little biblical support to have a professional minister deliver a sermon on Sunday mornings, maybe it’s time for us to abandon the practice. Instead let us begin ministering to one another as the Bible instructs.

Join me on the journey!

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2 Comments

  • Linda Vogt Turner Posted September 8, 2017 11:27 pm

    Interesting post. Why should some ministers be paid and others that are also ministering be unpaid. We should all teach and instruct one another about the secrets, the sacraments of our faith. Paul spoke about his duty as an apostle to preach.( 1 Corinthians 9: 14-18. He said this: the Lord has ordered that those who preach the gospel should get their living from it.

    15 But I haven’t made use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this now in order to claim such rights for myself….If I did my work as a matter of free choice, then I could expect to be paid; but I do it as a matter of duty, because God has entrusted me with this task. 18 What pay do I get, then? It is the privilege of preaching the Good News without charging for it, without claiming my rights in my work for the gospel.

    Indeed it is a privilege to preach the Gospel when one does not have to or when one is not under the supervision of a Church Board or a Bishop to preach the Gospel in a way that they wish it to be preached. A Lay person has the freedom to say what he or she wants to say in a way that speaks to the individual addressed at the moment.

    However, not everyone has the financial means to spend his/her life preaching for free. People have to make a living and feed their family and sustain themselves. If one is a hair dresser, a barber, a taxi driver or a school teacher, one may get the opportunity to share one’s faith with a client. But these opportunities are fast becoming politically incorrect.

    And yet…today I met with a neighbour for coffee and free of charge, I shared my faith. Each of us have a duty to share this faith with our neighbours who do not go to church if we can see by the interest on their face…they are eager to hear our story of why we believe. So…yes…we people of faith have a great opportunity and duty to get the Good News out to others. God is alive…Jesus’ return proves that those who die, merely sleep. God is with us…each child of God who loves and believes in Jesus has eternal life.

    • Peter DeHaan Posted September 9, 2017 10:07 am

      Don’t get me started on paid vs. unpaid! I think Paul sets a great example, and I wish more people would follow it.

      Thanks for your comment, Linda!

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