Summary: Jeremiah’s guidance on how to preach an effective sermon
September 2, 2001 Jeremiah 23:23-29
23 “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? 24 Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.
25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the LORD. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
Out of curiosity I recently checked out the Yellow Pages to see how many churches are in our area. To my amazement there were over 400 of them. There were Charismatic, Christian, Catholic, Bible, Christian Science, Church of God of Prophecy, Congregational - the list went on and on and on and on. If you get to thinking about it, you might say that we have a lot of competition. Over 400 pastors are going to preach over 400 sermons this Sunday. In a world that looks for professionalism and entertainment, we have a lot to compete with. So what should we do? Compete, right? But how do we compete? What are the rules of competition?
Jeremiah also was in a competition for souls- Israelite souls. He wasn’t the only preacher in his day. He wouldn’t have minded that competition, except for the fact that the competition was cheating. They were going against the rules. And for that reason, Jeremiah the preacher decided to preach at the preachers.
You may not be a professional preacher. But all of you still have the responsibility of picking what preacher you want to listen to. So the sermon is for you as well, as you hear how
The Preacher Preaches to Preachers
I was watching a video on preaching, and a well seasoned pastor recommended that every preacher in the room listen to this story written by Garrison Keillor. He said that a very important aspect to preaching is learning the art of telling a story. Garrison Keillor is an excellent storyteller, and by listening to him we might become better at it. Why is this all-important? Because, as a professor of mine used to tell me,“we have the attention span of gerbils”. Stories are the only thing that can keep our attention. This is especially true with a generation that has grown up on video games and television. We are people who think through pictures. So pictures need to be drawn.
If you notice next time you read the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit uses plenty of pictures throughout. Even when he had a special message to get his people, he would often times use dreams and visions to do so. Take for instance the story of Jacob. After he had stolen the birthmark from his brother Esau, he had to flee from his home to the land of Padan Aram. While he was sleeping, the Bible says -
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Now, God could have just as easily just said this to Jacob through a stranger walking by. But what did God do? He appeared to Jacob in a dream - and added a lovely stairway that went from earth all the way to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. With this visual aid, God was telling Jacob, “your prayers will be answered! You will receive the birthright!”
This happened in the New Testament as well. When Paul was traveling through Troas, Acts 16 says, During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” God could have just told him to go to Macedonia, but instead, he gave him a vision with a man begging for help - probably waving his arms and saying, “come!” This vision would really involve Paul’s senses in the fullest sense!