‘How long will you waver between the two? If Baal is God, serve him. If YHWH is God, serve him.’
We have the summary of Elijah’s sermon on Mt. Carmel. Like all good sermons should, it had just one point: stop worshipping idols and start living for God.
We don’t know how long the sermon was. But I’m willing to bet that no one fell asleep. No one left Carmel that day thinking that Elijah had preached too long. Elijah’s sermon and accompanying miracle so moved the people that they arose and killed 950 false prophets as a response. It was effective.
Granted, decapitating false teachers isn’t exactly how we do things in New Testament times. But we shouldn’t miss the obvious. People were stirred to do something dramatic upon hearing this message. True repentance happened that resulted in true action.
The Anglo-Saxon church world of the early 21st Century is plagued with boring preaching. The most exciting sermons are often by blasphemers and false prophets. It’s tragic that on Sunday some may have to choose between a preacher who makes lies seem true or one who makes truth seem dull.
Which is worse?
There was once a preacher in London who was friends with an actor. This actor packed out the theatres night after night. Over evening over dinner, the preacher quipped to his friend, ‘I would like to be able to fill my pews the way you fill your seats.’ The actor responded,
The difference between myself and you preachers is that I take things that are unreal and make them seem real. You preachers take things that are real and make them seem unreal.
Preacher, do your sermons sound like mere academic lectures? Is the goal of your message only to give information? Or are you preaching people into the presence of a holy God, to repent and believe the Gospel? Do we know what Paul meant when he wrote, ‘My preaching wasn’t in word only, but in the power of God’?
I don’t mean speaking from hype. I mean preaching from a conviction that cuts deep into your own spirit. Many of us here in the UK preach as if we are going to be marked by professors for theological soundness at the end of our sermon. We don’t preach as dying men to dying men.
Preacher, our job isn’t to read sermon notes to listeners or to just give them Bible trivia. Our goal is to tell them about how the God of Scripture must change their lives through Jesus. Remember, Jezebel's 950 false prophets speaking their lies with a hellish passion - and our people face them every week. We need to look people in the eye and tell them soberly about who God really is and who they really are. We are to plead with them to repent and believe, not just dispense accurate Bible facts.
Being faithful involves being more than stepping into the pulpit with orthodox sermon notes (if you use them). Being faithful also means preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that’s not something you can get in a book. Fire for preaching comes from sucking the floor in your prayer closet. If we haven’t prayed over the people and the passage, it will show when we open our mouths on Sunday. Preacher, with all your activities, be sure to get the fire.