Bad preaching can be deadly!

Okay, maybe that title is inappropriate. But I have biblical proof that bad preaching can kill.

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul began to speak to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, he extended his message until midnight. (Now there were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.) A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, was sinking into a deep sleep while Paul continued to speak for a long time. Fast asleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, threw himself on the young man, put his arms around him, and said, “Do not be distressed, for he is still alive!” Then Paul went back upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he talked with them a long time, until dawn. Then he left. (Acts 20:7-11 NET)

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 CEB)

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.


Image “Time Reverend, Please” is copyright (c) 2012 Charles Clegg and made available under license Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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