Tag Archives: Preaching

Preaching With “Freedom”

The last hymn is sung. The prayer is said. The people mill around in the back of the church chatting and herding their offspring towards the church doors and the promise of Sunday dinner. The pastor stands by the door shaking hands and sweating profusely from the effort he has just expended in the pulpit.

He wipes his brow with a hanky and smiles at one of his adoring flock.

“I felt real freedom to preach today,” he says.

The congregant smiles and nods. This phrase is standard pastor-speak and not to be thought about too deeply. And the line at the local buffet is growing longer so there’s no time to dawdle.

But for those of us who are peeking in this little scene, the question remains: what exactly did the pastor have freedom from while he was pounding on the furniture and yelling himself into apoplexy this morning?

Was it freedom from common decency and common sense?

Freedom from goodness, meekness, and gentleness?

Freedom from “human logic” and the confining bounds of actual meaning of the text before him?

Freedom from critiques and questions from those listening as to how he managed to get an entire sermon point about the evils of imported cars out of Ezekiel?

And most importantly of all, did the truth of his sermon leave his people feeling as free in the pew as he felt in the pulpit or did that “freedom” merely wrap them in tighter chains of bondage?

“I just felt a lot of freedom up there today,” the pastor repeats as the next church member in line smiles and nods and scurries away.

It must be a nice feeling. If only everybody else had felt it too.

Rabbit Trail Preaching

Although there are exceptions, the majority fundamentalist preachers do not speak in a linear fashion. Some may very well have a three point alliterated outline and give the impression that they have some specific big idea to communicate but in reality, the average fundy sermon runs a very tortuous route indeed taking frequent jaunts into amen lines and pit stops on the pastor’s pet peeves. It’s a wild ride.

This style of speaking is not merely the ramblings of the untrained mind, it serves a specific purpose. For it is much easier to disguise that that your points are neither well developed or particularly well supported if you separate them by minutes of filler material and lots of one-liners designed to elicit positive responses from the audience. Best of all, the preacher can simply claim that all the extras were just laid on his heart by the Spirit in the process of preaching and who can really argue with that?

Consider the following outline which I’ve just made up on the spot. (It’s really kind of scary how easy this is to do.)

I. Sampson’s Call (A Nazirite From His Mother’s Womb)
– spend 15 minutes telling how the pastor was called to the ministry
and resisted until that one night in Tampa back in ’63
– throw in a few digs at some other church in town
II. Sampson’s Gall (The riddles and burning of the fields with foxes)
– Somehow connect this to rock music. Yell a lot.
– Pause to congratulate some visiting fundy on his long ministry and unswerving stand on the KJV
III. Sampson’s Fall (Loss of His Hair and slavery)
– spend 20 minutes talking about how courtship is more biblical than dating.
– tell a heart wrenching story about a puppy.

By the end of all that, the hearers will have been sent down so many different paths of thought that there will be no way of trying to connect back the bulk what they’ve just heard to any actual point, structure, or support material. All they will know is that there were verses used so whatever the speaker just said must certainly be biblical.

“Second Sermons”

preacherSomewhere in a fundamentalist church a guest speaker is wrapping up his thunderous sermon. He swigs a last sip of water from the cup on the pulpit and invites the pastor back to the so he can “draw the net” with the invitation.

The pastor thanks the speaker grandly for his wonderful message and then says the fateful words “I just want to talk for a minute and add a few things to what our brother said.” An audible groan goes through the congregation because they know full well that at this point begins the phenomenon of the second sermon which could last any length of time regardless of how long the first sermon was. Fundamentalists preachers are not slaves to any man’s clock.

A variation on the second sermon may also come in the form of the closing prayer. Some pastors who have missed the chance to preach themselves in a service have been known to insert a full three points into the closing prayer complete with alliteration. Hopefully nobody was hoping to see the kickoff of a football game or beat the rush to the local buffet for lunch.

(many thanks to stan for the suggestion)


sermons6For those fundamentalist sermon aficionados out there, here are a few sermon genres that grow better with age, like a fine old wine or a ripe old cheese.

The Stump Speech: Religion and Politics are a great combination. Stir some verses into your political diatribe and shake well. Extra points if you can get a politician from your party to actually do the speaking.

The Guided Missile: There’s a person in the church who needs this sermon that’s why you wrote it! Make sure to make eye contact with them while you preach it, especially during the yelling parts. Getting other church folks to glare with you will get you bonus points every time.

The Impromptu Concert: You’ve got a great singing voice — use it! Stop cold in the middle of a point and break into glorious song. People are just dying to hear you sing, so serve it up often.

The Linguistics Lesson: Let people know that the hours you spent in that church basement getting your education were not wasted! Make up entire points of your sermon telling the difference in the original language between the kinds of love. Extra points if you can find that in the original manuscripts, “thou shalt not wear pants” is clearly stated!

The Scientific Discourse: Make sure that everyone knows what a great mind you have by quoting scientific facts. If you don’t have good scientific facts to back up what you’re saying then just guess at some. After all, science is all THEORY anyway!

The Obscure Reference: Find thing in a passage that nobody else has ever thought about. Preach a message about the clasps on Jonah’s shoes. Or the beard on Daniel’s billy goat. Go ahead. Don’t just preach about the folks holding the ropes on Paul’s basket, talk about people who wove the rope and the builders who made the wall so that Paul could be lowered over it. The dynamite is in the details.

The Testimony Time: Why should only one person have all the fun of talking? Letting people break into the middle of the sermon to share their experiences on the subject is sure to help people relate. Make sure to have the tissues handy.

The Campfire Story: Spend most of the service involved in telling a really horrifying story. If the story can involve dismemberment, decapitation, or being eaten alive, so much the better. Best if used during a youth rally or chapel service.

The Springboard: Pick a verse, any verse. Read it with feelings. Then talk about anything you want to. Extra points if the verse is from a minor prophet.

The Cheer Leading Session: Make sure people are following along by asking “Amen?” at the end of every sentence. Sprinkle in a few “And all God’s people said?” lines as well. Be sure to chastise the crowd if not enough response is forthcoming.