The sermon is a key part of any Christian worship service. This is point where the pastor, as a servant of the word, proclaims the Gospel. When you replace the word "sermon" with the word “message” it more clearly implies that the pastor is bringing a message from another. This is much like the role of an ambassador when they bring a message of their sovereign to another group of people. Therefore, what the pastor is to proclaim, is not his message, but the message of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20). St. Paul stated that he preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1 :23) and not what people wanted to hear. The entire purpose of preaching is to proclaim the Gospel. However, in order for the Gospel to be effective, the pastor must also bring the Law and all it’s condemnation to the hears. Just because a pastor preaches a sermon based on the bible doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a Christian sermon. A Jewish Rabi can preach a entire sermon from the Old Testament and it will not be a Christian sermon. A Christian sermon must have Christ to be Christian.
Many argue the proclamation of the Gospel is what UNBELIEVERS need to hear and that believers no longer need to hear the Gospel. St. Paul told the church in Rome that he was eager to preach the Gospel to those in Rome, who were Christians (Romans 1:15). When a believer comes to think that they don’t need to hear the Gospel anymore, but need to move on to “more important teachings”, is when the believer needs to hear the Gospel again. We can never hear enough of the Gospel of Christ since we continue to be sinners in need of a savior.
Many sermons that preached today are not Christ centered messages. Many pastors have replaced the message of the cross with a focus on the Christian life, society or other issues that are not the Gospel. Rev. Todd Wilkins, host of Issues, Etc. radio program has developed a good test to determine if the sermon that the pastor preaches is a Christ centered sermon. Here we are focusing on what the pastor says, not the delivery style or their ability to effectively communicate or entertain an audience, but the content of what is being said. This set of questions is a tool that you can use when listen to a sermon. Content is everything in a sermon!
- How often is Jesus mention?
- If Jesus is mentioned, is He the subject of the verbs?
- What are those verbs?
First, if Jesus is not mentioned, then you know that this is not a Christ centered sermon and not a Christian sermon. Jesus can be mentioned in his various names and titles. Just because Christ is mentioned, doesn’t make the sermon a Christian sermon, especially if the Gospel is not present nor proclaimed.
Second, when Jesus is mentioned, is he the subject of the verbs? In every sentence, there is a subject and a verb. If Jesus isn’t the subject, then who is? If Jesus isn’t the subject of the verbs, then this cannot be a Christ centered sermon. When someone other than Christ is the subject of the sentence, then Christ cannot be the focus of the sermon.
Next, look at the verbs associated with Jesus in the sermon. Are the verbs associated with Jesus passive or active? Is Jesus doing the action or is he being acted upon? If Jesus isn’t the active player in the verbs, then who is? If the pastor is placing the individual as the active player, then this sermon is not a Gospel sermon. For example, “Jesus is waiting for you to give your life to him” places Jesus as the passive player and the individual as the active player. If the pastor says “Jesus has saved you and gives you life” he is placing Jesus as the active player and you as the passive player. This is very important since the Gospel is not about what we do for Christ, but what Christ has already done for us.
What is the solution that the pastor provides? If the solution is to “Give your heart to Jesus” or “Change your attitude” places the focus on the individual as the source of the solution. This is not a Christ centered sermon but a human centered sermon. The Biblical solution is always what Christ has done for you on the cross.