Sermons are important but insufficient for your church

The excellent book on church ministry, The Trellis and the Vine, includes a chapter entitled “Why Sunday Sermons are necessary but not sufficient.” 

Sound like heresy?

Sermons are needed, yes, but they are not all that is needed…

To say that sermons (in the sense of Bible expositions in our Sunday gatherings) are necessary but not sufficient is simply to stand on the theological truth that it is the word of the gospel that is sufficient, rather than on any one particular form of its delivery. We might say that the speaking of the word of the gospel under the power of the Spirit is entirely sufficient—it’s just that on its own, the 25-minute sermonic form of it is not.

We say this because the New Testament compels us to. As we have already seen, God expects all Christians to be disciple-makers by prayerfully speaking the word of God to others—in whatever way and to whatever extent that their gifting and circumstances allow. When God has gifted all the members of the congregation to help grow disciples, why should we silence the contribution of all but one of them (the pastor), and think that this is sufficient or acceptable?

In his fine book on preaching, Speaking God’s Words, Peter Adam… concludes that:

…while preaching…is one form of the ministry of the Word, many other forms are reflected in the Bible and in contemporary Christian church life. It is important to grasp this point clearly, or we shall try and make preaching carry a load which it cannot bear; that is, the burden of doing all that th Bible expects of every form of ministry of the Word.

Adam goes on to define preaching as the “explanation and application" of the Word to the congregation of Christ in order to produce corporate preparation for service, unity of faith, maturity, growth and upbuilding”. But he points out that Sunday preaching is not the only way to address the edification of the body:

While individuals may be edified in so far as they are members of the congregation, there may well be other areas in which they need correction and training in righteousness which they will not obtain through the Sunday sermon, because by its very nature it is generalist in its application.”

…Sunday is not the only place where the action is.

John Piper, certainly no opponent to the preaching of the Word, agrees that it is not enough:

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