Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Sermon Committee?

What is a sermon committee, and what do they do?

In some discussion about the new SBC President (pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, AL), Steve Newhouse mentioned a sermon committee. I have never heard of such previously. If you live long enough, I suppose you learn lots of new things! He did not specifically say what this committee is, while implying it is group that somehow helps the pastor in the preparation of his sermons. Another person named Kristin later explained that pastors often have formal or informal committees that talk about things “that might influence the direction of what passages or topics would be good for the congregation.” David Griffin pointed to Ed Litton’s own explanation of his committee – what he calls a preaching team – which is involved in discussing details even such as the outline of and approaches to a sermon series.

“We employ a preaching team approach at Redemption Church that is comprised of eight men from our staff/congregation who meet weekly to discuss study insights, outlines, and approaches to the text. This sermon prep process includes working in the languages, consulting commentaries and books, and listening to strong communicators.” – Pastor’s Statement by Ed Litton
Someone on the Baptist Board pointed me to a similar practice of Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

“...on Saturday night before preaching on Sunday, a small group meets at his house. He reads his sermon manuscript to them, receives feedback and makes changes accordingly.” Pastors talk leadership & preaching

In Preach: Theology Meets Practice, Dever writes: 
“I’ve made it a practice over the past fifteen years to take a few members of my church to lunch on Saturdays and think with them through the application grid...Then, later, after I’ve written the sermon, I’ll read it to a few friends in my study on Saturday night, and often there are women present who give me some of the best comments I receive.” (Preach: Theology Meets Practice, Mark Dever, Greg Gilbert, Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2012, pp. 93-94)

This all seems quite unusual to me, both from (1) the standpoint of it being new – something of which I have never heard – and (2) not being much like the “sermonizing” recorded in the New Testament. Generally, the teaching of the New Testament preachers is much more spontaneous, whether evangelism in the field (e.g. Acts 2:14, Acts 13:14-16) or teaching in the church (e.g. Acts 15:7, 1 Corinthians 14:29-31). Further, the need of such a committee puts the emphasis on the sermon as oratory rather than the sermon as teaching the word of God.[i] Finally, it jettisons the idea of New Testament practice as the normal way we should approach church, including preaching.[ii]

[i] The writing down of notes or thoughts is not so objectionable, as that what goes on in many pulpits is about the speaker rather than the hearers. Preaching should not be about devising a cunning format, or delivering a stunning discourse. It should be about communicating the truth of the gospel and God’s word. 
[ii] Some of which includes dialogue (Mark 8:27–10:52; Acts 19:8; 20:7-9; I Corinthians 14) as opposed to lecture. The type of meeting that Paul described in I Corinthians chapter 14 is much more open and informal than the average Baptist meeting today. Is it possible that there should be both much more teaching and interactive dialogue in our regular gatherings? How do the scripture examples show us we should operate in this area of practice?

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