Five Sermon Themes to Reconsider – 10/11/14

Visiting churches here, I hear all types of sermons. Some have good points, even great points, but many miss because they are theologically weak, not practical, or follow pastoral biases. An example of such sermons might be perennial “giving” or “stewardship” sermons warning all that God is cheated if various percentages of our income are not given (dubious from a true biblical perspective), along with annual pledges for church support. Often the endless and currently trendy “series sermons,” where some pastors preach three-point messages for weeks on end, amaze me. Some are good, but some are grounds for endless pontificating by pastors who can’t come to the point.

Today’s column is intended to give five examples of types of sermons that may be keeping seekers away from Christianity.

Steps to Becoming a Christian

Many pastors rightly believe this is the focus of their ministry but when all is said and done, their congregations often don’t get it, because the pastors themselves don’t seem to get it. Few Christians I meet day-to-day can explain to me how to become a Christian, other than tell me to attend their church. Even Christ’s followers had a hard time understanding it (see Matthew 19:16-30). An elevator speech (explaining what you do or believe in a short elevator ride) is virtually unknown to most pew warmers I meet. Many know more about what they’ve been told not to do, than to share biblical truths on obtaining eternal life. This shows many learn little from attending church for years, even after copious Bible study. I also don’t believe it’s contained in the Billy Graham or Luis Palau approaches nailed down by the “sinner’s prayer.” And why do church people flood such meetings anyway? I thought they were directed at the “unsaved.”

Rapture Theologies

Some churches and pastors advocate rapture teachings of doubtful scriptural backing, teachings widely discredited by biblical scholars and theologians. In too many rapture-preaching churches this teaching emerges as a scare tactic compelling non-believers into following this line of thinking. “Get on board, as you won’t know when it (the rapture) happens.” Christianity Today, just this week, denounced the latest Nicholas Cage movie about the rapture, “Left Behind,” as “un-Christian.” Theologian Martin Marty, in an Oct. 8 piece in Huffington Post, decried the attention these movies get, the rapture industry, and the money it brings in, as “something really bad esthetically … served up by a damn fool to a plain fool public as if it is an asset to belief and believers’ communities.”

Hellfire and Damnation Preaching

Many scholars believe this unfortunate interpretation of scripture is used to compel people to accept a misunderstood theology. This teaching, hurled from hundreds of Alaska pulpits, says God will allow sinners to burn in hell “forever and ever” if they are found wanting. Why would you serve a God who allows this kind of torture to continue forever? Many world-class, conservative and respected Bible-believing theologians and biblical scholars reject this line of reasoning countering instead that God will punish the wicked, their death is certain and final, not “forever and ever”.

Abuse, Domestic Violence and Mental Health

A national debate has arisen regarding pastoral failures to address issues of abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues from the pulpit. With the recent focus on the NFL regarding issues of domestic violence now extending into other professions, it’s time churches gave these topics wider focus. I agree with the view that church is a hospital for those who are spiritually sick, but shouldn’t the prevailing issues of spiritual sickness be brought out in plain sight? The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault recently reported that of every 100 adult Alaska women, 48 experience sexual violence from an intimate partner, 37 experience sexual violence, and 59 experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both. Yet most churches are strangely silent on this. Why? Maybe they believe these people are not in “their” church.

Practical Advice for Enjoying a Healthy Life

In many churches prayer is requested for friends and loved ones every week. They suffer physical pain with heart, gall bladder, obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and other maladies too numerous to mention. I believe we should pray for those with such conditions. However, many of these maladies might have been totally prevented by adopting healthy living styles, something church leaders seem to ignore from the pulpit. Diabetes, for example, is heavily influenced by poor lifestyles. In 14 years of attending and observing local churches, I’ve heard just one sermon advocating healthy lifestyles. Instead, when attending church suppers and potlucks, I repeatedly see one aspect of an unhealthy lifestyle; unhealthy food, even that cooked by the churches themselves. Abundant scientific evidence is on the side of healthy lifestyles, but why isn’t it shared? The Bible itself contains excellent health information.

While this column won’t endear me to all area church leaders, my intent is to raise questions about the way local churches present themselves by their messages. I can’t claim to visit every church on a regular basis; no one could. However, the churches I regularly visit represent the majority of churchgoers in Anchorage. Though not exhaustive, this list represents reasonable targets to alert church leaders to the way they present themselves. I encourage more church leaders to review these issues seriously and hopefully begin addressing them from their pulpits.

4 thoughts on “Five Sermon Themes to Reconsider – 10/11/14

  1. Ken Perry

    Mr Thompson. Once more I am deeply impressed by your knowledge of Scriptural truths. The churches have done so much to misread and misapply scriptures, and end up teaching the 5 things you mentioned and many more, instead of the truths Jesus taught. I do hope you will accept my invitation one day to visit one of our Kingdom Halls and see our efforts to hold faithfully to Bible teachings and Christian living. In the mean time, check out our website and our new internet broadcasting at Fantastic material there in hundreds of languages.

  2. Jackie Musgrave

    Your columns are always interesting, but I take exception to your dig at Christians who attend Billy Graham (or other) crusades. Yes, they are designed to bring folks to Christ, but they also serve a valid purpose by encouraging Christians to recommit to their faith, to share fellowship with others, and to simply enjoy hearing great evangelists speak about the Lord we love…not to mention the music! I had the privilege of singing in a Billy Graham crusade choir many years ago and it was a wonderful experience in every respect.

  3. Carey Cossaboom

    Similar to keeping seekers away from Christianity, are those messages that alienate the faithful when they are not in the church environs. The one that I believe to be the most damaging is the misconception that the Earth is roughly 7,000 years old. How are our kids in college supposed to believe anything other than Evolutionism when this becomes a key point in the Creation/Evolution debate? Thankfully, the Intelligent Design camp has overcome this stumbling block. But not so for many churches. I’ve just published a novel that deals with this in an entertaining (hopefully) fashion. I’d be happy to give you a copy.


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