It’s a funny line that really isn’t funny: “That must have been a great sermon, Preacher…I didn’t understand a word of it.”
I am concerned, though, that there are many times when many if not most of the people in the congregation would say something like that.
I say that not because I think that my sermons are all that hard to understand—although sometimes they are—but because of the variety that characterizes a congregation.
Over there sits someone who has been a seriously thoughtful Christian for fifty years; right in front of her sits someone who has never decided to follow Jesus.
Over there sits someone who hasn’t missed a worship service in decades; over to his left sits someone who is participating for the first time in decades.
Over there sits a 90 year old woman; two rows behind her sits a nine year old boy.
Over there sits a professional with a bachelor’s degree and two graduate degrees; on the other side of the room sits a laborer with a GED.
And we preachers are supposed to preach to everybody in the room, hopefully in a way that all of them can understand.
What do we need to remember?
(1) We should speak as plainly and simply as we can. All people need the simple truth of the good news.
(2) We should go into deep things as we feel led to do so. All people need to have their spiritual imaginations stretched; if someone’s gets stretched farther than it can sustain, maybe it will snap back to a helpful place.
(3) We should tell stories. Everybody likes, understands, and remembers stories.
(4) We should trust the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can and will communicate to someone what they need to hear, whether through or despite our words.