Monday, April 20, 2009

Mail Order Sermons-"Dead Bread"

I recently read a blog post about preaching where the author described his discovery of the availability of mail order sermons. You can read the whole article here. I've posted some of it below. I agree with the author that the idea of someone ordering a sermon rather than doing the hard work of studying for themselves is terribly disappointing. I can't imagine any pastor who would do such a thing hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant".

I remember sitting in a popular restaurant chain with some friends several years ago, when the waitress came to take our order. One of my friends, when asked what kind of dressing he wanted on his salad, abruptly stated to the startled server, “And I don’t want any ‘dead bread’ on my salad.” After letting the comment sink in, the sweet but stunned girl replied, “Oh, you mean croutons!” To which my friend simply nodded in confirmation.That analogy has stuck with me all these years, and I remember it every time I order a salad that comes with “dead bread.”

I actually don’t mind croutons that much, and have even purchased a bag when passing through the salad aisle at the supermarket. There are so many flavors now: herb, parmesan, bacon-ranch, etc; all so conveniently located that I just reach out and take them as I pass by while filling my cart. However, when applying my friend’s unflattering adjective to preaching, my heart is stirred over a phenomenon which has gripped America’s pulpits in recent years.I recall opening my mail one morning some years ago and reading my first advertisement for “dead bread”:“Pastors, are you too busy to spend hours of preparation on your sermons? Tired of feeling the stress of having to come up with original ideas week after week? If so, for just $199.95 you can have 52 weeks of quality sermons crafted by homiletical masters, complete with illustrations! Your congregation is guaranteed to be thrilled with the results or your money back!” Could this be true? Are there people who actually do this?

My next encounter with the crouton crowd was at a breakfast meeting with a group of ministers when three men from the same “high church” tradition began comparing how their Easter season was going. I was stunned when each one began sharing from the exact same text, outline, illustrations, everything! They chided me for my naiveté and how I could expect to come up with fresh bread week after week after week. The last straw was when I found “sermon seed” in the back of my own former fellowship’s ministerial journal, giving even Pentecostal pastors a shortcut to perfectly prepared and portioned seasoned sermons.

Little did I realize that there was an entirely new “evangelical liturgy” which had been created in the name of pragmatic programming and church growth. There are many websites available to pastors across America (which I refuse to list here) where they can tap into high carbohydrate ministries by simply “clicking and shipping” a veritable supermarket of pre-prepared and pre-packaged food.This truth was originally proclaimed (in type) in the account of God’s warning to Israel that He wanted them to gather fresh manna each morning, and that they were not to hoard up one crumb until the next day. They were supposed to learn that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8). They failed to listen then, and the result was spoilage and worms instead of a miraculous manifestation of God’s power (Exodus 16). The Apostle Peter exhorted those of us who preach:

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;” (1 Peter 4:11a)

We are to work, weep, and wrestle with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to bring forth a fresh revelation of God’s mind and heart to His people DAILY. Today, all the over-worked and under-prayed pastor/CEO needs to do is click, ship, and unwrap the moldy manna, and sprinkle it liberally into the gaping mouths and itching ears of their “flock” (of pigeons not sheep).

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