Okay, maybe that title is inappropriate. But I have biblical proof that bad preaching can kill.
On the first day of the week, as we gathered together for a meal, Paul was holding a discussion with them. Since he was leaving the next day, he continued talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we had gathered. A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell from the third floor and died. Paul went down, fell on him and embraced him, then said, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive!” Then Paul went back upstairs and ate. He talked for a long time—right up until daybreak—then he left. (Acts 20:7-11)
And you thought there was no humor in the bible.
Paul starts preaching and sometime after midnight, Eutychus falls both asleep and out the window. And Paul, being the itinerant preacher that he is, resurrects him so as to not interrupt his sermon. Then, as you’d expect from any God-fearing preacher, he finishes the message and leaves.
I think a lot of preachers take this bible story as literally as those “love your neighbor” and “feed the hungry” passages.
On a more serious note, it’s no secret that the Church is hurting. Attendance and giving are down; anxiety and community needs are up. And there are a lot of potential causes with not so many potential solutions. I’m not saying bad preaching is to blame. But what if better preaching could help? What if sermons were both theologically sound and engaging? Is that even possible?
Of course it is. See, way before that guy died of boredom during a 12-hour sermon, something happened. The Word was up to something else – not just putting people to sleep.
The Word became flesh and made his home among us. (John 1:14)
The Word isn’t just some ancient text that doesn’t have meaning today. No, the Word of God is alive. And even though it’s hard to see sometimes, God is speaking – bringing new life in peculiar places.
If you go to church and you’re not engaged, I’m sorry. If your worship life feels stale, I’m sorry. If the 8-10 (…or 45) minute sermon is when you make your grocery list, I’m sorry. I pray you soon hear a life-giving Word.
If you’re a church leader and you’re not engaged, neither are your people. If your worship life feels stale, it probably does for your people as well. If your 8-10 (…or 45) minute sermon feels tedious for you, it’s probably worse your people. I pray you soon preach a life-giving Word.
Wherever you are in life, take heart. God is still speaking to – and through – you, breathing new life into the dust.