Repeating sermons

I prefer “messages” rather than “sermons”, but you all know what I mean.

Messages I put together are aimed at the congregation I’m about to speak to. However, I don’t bin them afterwards, unlike others I know who are against the recycling of messages.

If I preached the same message exactly more than once to the same people, it would be a bit stale. Still, there’s good reason to re-use them with different audiences, albeit with some changes. After all, if you believe the Lord helped you in your preparation, it makes as much sense to discard it as it would for a Christian writer to discard the research they’ve been doing on a book, or a Bible-college student to shred their theological essays after they’ve had them marked.

I was recently in the awkward situation of being told at the outset of a preaching engagement that my message was the same as I delivered the last time I was there. My system of keeping a record had failed, and I had to dig myself out of that hole with profuse apologies. I had no choice but to carry on.

What happened surprised me. It was the same message, yet very different.

Not believing that incidents are random, but are instead planned by God for some reason, I reflected afterwards on the situation. The real awkwardness, I realized, was the thought that the people would feel cheated. But why are we conditioned that way?

In any area of teaching, rehearsing the material is essential. Students of every discipline revisit numerous times what they’ve been taught . Even students in theological colleges do it. Yet in the area of preaching, we leave the messages behind us, to dissolve into the past. They’re replaced in the hearers’ minds by new sermons, as if it would be a crime to dwell on them.

We have to concede the point that sermons are not lectures. They feed the heart as well as the mind. That being so, exact comparisons with secular learning are not fair. Yet these sermons do contain facts and principles which would be good for people to have solidified in their memories. We may like the idea that preachers should “keep it fresh”, as the Lord lays new messages on their hearts for those people at that time. Yet this is exactly what happened when I repeated a message: it was different the second time around. The “facts”, if you like, were still there, but the exhortations were new and relevant for that time.

I’m having to rethink this matter. It could be that God’s purpose in this was to show me that it isn’t necessarily lazy or inconsiderate to repeat a message to the same people. Don’t think I’m starting a campaign to adopt this as normal practice, but it should make preachers and hearers think a little about their attitude. There could be a case for deliberately repeating yourself in the name of learning, and preachers have the duty then to deliver it in a way which shows they’re genuinely preaching anew and not lazily reading an old message for their own convenience.

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~ by Animus on June 13, 2016.

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