Habits Of Defective Sermons Described At Preaching
Over 160 Take In Two-Day Event With Tom Long
What are the seven habits of highly defective sermons?
The first bad habit is “not taking enough time with the biblical text,” said
Tom Long, Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA,
at CMU’s bi-annual Church in Ministry Seminars.
Other bad habits, he said, are “not paying enough attention
to the needs of listeners;” not having a strategy for using illustrations; being
afraid to use theological language for fear that people won’t understand it; not
taking seriously the collision between the Gospel and culture; not giving people
“attainable ethics”—practical things they can do after hearing the sermon; and
not “proclaiming the presence of God in the world.”
Long was the keynote speaker at the January 14-15 event,
titled “The Witness of Preaching.” Over 160 people attended one or both days,
with participants coming from a variety of denominations and from as far west as
Kelowna, B.C. and as far east as Ottawa.
Long went on to say that a preacher’s task is not capture the congregation’s
interest. “At the beginning of the sermon you already have it,” he said. “The
goal is not to lose it.”
Preachers should also make sure the sermon has a focus and is easy to follow,
he said, adding that preachers should also have a clear goal for the sermon.
He suggested that preachers also need to provide “turn signals” when making a
transition from one section to another.
“You don’t need them,” said Long. “You’re driving—you know where you are
going. But the people who are following you don’t know.”
The preacher’s task is complicated by the fact that culture today does not
support religion, Long noted.
“The grand certitudes have been called into question,” he said. “People don’t
automatically give assent to everything they hear. We have to be seeking a
hearing each time we speak.”
During a question and answer time, Long, the author of several books on the
art of preaching, was asked how he judged the success of a sermon.
“The excellence of preaching is measured by the discipleship of the
congregation in the world,” he said.
Other topics addressed by Long included “Engaging the Biblical Text in
Preaching,” “Preaching in a Windstorm: Speaking Gospel in Today's Culture,” and
“The Promise and Peril of Narrative Preaching.”
In addition to Long, other sessions at the bi-annual event included an
address by CMU professor Dan Epp-Tiessen titled “What Is God Doing Through Our
Other workshops at the event were: “Fusing God's Grace and Christian Ethics,”
by Allan Rudy-Froese; “Preaching as an Act of Worship,” by CMU professor Irma
Fast Dueck; “Preaching that Engages Young Adults and Youth,” by John Neufeld of
the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches; “Preaching the Psalms,”
by CMU professor Pierre Gilbert; “Preaching from Paul,” by CMU professor
emeritus George Shillington; and “Preaching from Luke,” by CMU professor Sheila
Worship at the event was led by Christine Longhurst, a former pastor of
worship at River East Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg who teaches in the
area of worship at CMU.
The event included a chapel for students with Ruth Preston Schilk, pastor of
the Lethbridge, Alta. Mennonite Church, and Marvin Dyck, pastor of Crossroads
Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg, who talked about what keeps them in
The next Church in Ministry Seminars is in January, 2010.
Posted January 18, 2008.
For more information contact CMU Communications Director, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3P 2N2, telephone: 204-487-3300 ext. 630, fax: 204-889-1694, (www.cmu.ca)