The Door-Step Evangel

The Goal of a Sermon
Dr. Ronald L. Tottingham

I receive sermons on occasion from some one or other. I attend a few conferences, and occasionally there will be a preacher who for some reason or other is traveling through visiting our services, who I have liberty to invite to preach for us, so I have opportunity to hear a few sermons during the course of any given year.

I've found myself questioning a specific thing or two about sermon goals of late. I have not always had clear goals for my sermons and have watched that develop over the years since I began preaching in August 1968. Now, what I was taught should be the goal, end result, purpose, etc., was not what has become my own personal goal.

It is my "forming" opinion that too many sermons today are being preached for the goal of, to gain the result of, to the end of having the listeners come to the altar, or just to get folks to the altar. True sermons (in my opinion) are not explicitly for getting folks to "come to the altar" but for moving folks to give way to the Lord in their lives and grow to spiritual maturity and all that pertains to.

It would seem to me that preaching just to get folks on an altar is a "success" oriented, "showy" and immediate goal - and not necessarily with a view to long term spiritual maturity. Where is preaching with long term growth in view? Where is preaching where "line upon line, precept upon precept," or a slow life-time of spiritual building is promoted as a parent looks for in children? Where are these types of sermons? Are they out? Are "evangelism," immediate results for view, for count, for numbering sermons taking over? Where are preachers who have a shepherd's heart and goal in their preaching?

True pastors know that very few sermons have immediate violent results, but most pastoring is steady "spiritual meal after meal" feeding until one day the saint is "all grow'd up." This preaching to fill the altars, the "instant potatoes," the demand for immediate response, tends to change the pleaing from pleas toward solid meditative consideration for life-long results, to pleas centered entirely toward gaining immediate responses. Therefore, the issues pleaded for in these two goals will differ, often drastically. The one will look toward the future and the failures and sins of longer term affect, while the other will look toward the failures of immediate service, things of doing rather than of being. What is needed today are sermons pleading for inner spiritual communion that actively lives Christlike from out of the inner man. The kind of spirituality that builds up the inner man to walk with God openly and honestly, and in holiness and purity. Rather than the kind that pleads for a nearly totally outward "do" Christianity. Where is the belief that one does what one is? Where is preaching to build the character of the inward man to establish a solid inward relationship with the Lord?

"I'm appalled at the shallow devotional lives via devotional booklets and family devotions which become substitutes for personal "shut up in a closet" Matthew 6:6 Bible devotions. Today, it seems, fundamentalism is geared toward outward busy-ness. A go, go, go Christian culture is fast developing which has its own sermons geared to gain the results of surrendering to the "sins" of not being "on the go" to gain immediate professions or other responses - immediately.

My goal is not necessarily to see the altars full but to see the hearts full instead - to feed the sheep, to build up life-time spiritual inner fire that lasts and lasts year after year and leaves behind it solid offspring of likewise faithful Baptists filling places in God's work year after year. Immediate goal sermons produce short term Christianity I think. Give me long-term goals and long-term Christianity any time.

The Door-Step Evangel is published in the interests of Evangelism and information as a Church paper, sincerely devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ. We are in favor of everything that is right and opposed to everything that is wrong.

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