“The Sunday sermon is therefore the moment in the week when the people of God together meet the word of God and and so the role of preachers of God’s word to God’s people is one of immense worth and unique importance. In our weekly sermon God’s people gather around God and hear him speak to them through his Spirit-inspired Scriptures.”
The Distinctive Role of the Sermon
People read their Bibles at home. People go to Bible studies. Children and young people are taught the Bible. So members of churches are hearing the words of God all the time. What is different about the Sunday sermon? What is distinctive about the Sunday sermon is that is addressed to the church?
It is the one time in the week when…
- God’s people hear God’s words collectively, as a body.
- God addresses the corporate life, the shared common life, of his people.
- The people of God gather around the word of God, and
- God is present among his people to speak to them about their common life.
The Sunday sermon is therefore the moment in the week when the people of God together meet the word of God and and so the role of preachers of God’s word to God’s people is one of immense worth and unique importance. In our weekly sermon God’s people gather around God and hear him speak to them through his Spirit-inspired Scriptures.
The Importance of the Church
The church is important because the fruit of the gospel is not just the conversion of individuals but the creation of the church. We can summarise the structure of the Bible God’s promise to Abraham,
“I will make of you a great nation” [Genesis 12:2], and Jesus’ promise to his disciples, “I will build my church” [Matthew 16:18]. The miraculous fruit of the gospel is not just mature believers, but mature churches. The fulfilment of God’s plan is the perfection of the bride of Christ, the holy city, the new Jerusalem when God will finally dwell among his people (Revelation 21:1–27). It is not that the churches only exist because individual believers need to be supported, taught, and encouraged. God’s big plan is to have his own people, the church of Jesus Christ, the temple of his Holy Spirit, and individuals are called and invited to join God’s people.
The gospel in the Bible is mostly described as God’s plan for the world, or God’s plan for the church. Jesus is the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Christ laid down his life for the sheep, that is, the flock of sheep, not individual sheep (John 10:15). Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25–27). The gospel according to Romans and Ephesians is not just about individuals but about God’s plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. God’s message to the world is: “Believe in my Son and join my people.”
Brainwashed Into Individualism
Those of us who live in the Western world have been brainwashed into individualism. We think and feel as individuals, we regard individuals as the most important form of human life, we privilege individuals over communities, so we assume that God’s main concern is for individuals, and so we read and preach the Bible as if it was addressed to individuals.
And our individualism is expressed in our focus on personal daily Bible reading [a good thing to do!], and in some instances, prioritising a home group or Bible study with friends over hearing God speak to our church.