Homilies are prepared sermons.

Homiletics and Pulpit

Define:
homiletics (also sermon, homily, and preaching.)
pulpit (also lectern and podium).
On sermon quality.

A Spiritual Home > Meanings of Church Words > Homiletics and Pulpit


Preach by not preaching in the usual way.

What Is Homiletics?

homiletics [Greek homiletikos > homilos (to assemble, to put many pieces together)] the art and craft of preaching. This is usually taught in a seminary, to the future ordained ministers of the church. The usual result is that the student who comes in with little ability to preach is able to become passable in speaking about gospel truths to a large group of people, in the form of a sermon or homily.

The core of preaching is to draw those truths from Scripture and share them with the people at hand. While this purpose is a good one, it is not achieved just by presentation, but by living out a life of faith in Christ among, and in full view of, those same people and their neighbors, colleagues, and families, once the sermon is over. The whole of an ordained minister's life is meant to be dedicated to being a presentation of the Gospel. This can't be done by just a few words in a homily on Sunday. And even a great homily adds up to little if the Holy Spirit does not empower it in those who hear it. The Spirit's work through a preacher, in turn, does not usually take effect outside of much prayer and Bible learning, and outside of a real love for those to whom the preacher speaks. This is the core of homiletics, rightly understood. Sermons do not stand by themselves, but are part of the life of the faith community.

For presenting the gospel truths and their meaning in today's world, there are other ways than preaching sermons. Many people do not respond well at all to listening to someone speak to them for 15 to 30 minutes on some matter. It's a problem for schools, training seminars, events, and public meetings, not just church.

So, what's the problem with sermons?

  • Part of the problem is in the method itself. Most truths are better conveyed when those present can take part by touching, reading, speaking, seeing and creating images, and singing or hearing in music those truths, so that they may even discover some of this for themselves rather than just being told. Or for another example: in today's world, it's possible for the gathered to go to their hand-held devices or laptop computers to check what the speaker's saying with its supposed Scriptural sources, or to discover that the story being cited in the sermon is actually an 'urban legend'. Shouldn't they be able to get up and say what they've found? Or even write comments when reading a posted draft of the sermon on-line before it's preached? In some ways, effective preaching is the art of leading others into the process of learning what the gospel is saying.
  • Part of the problem with homiletics is today's people. Unless they arrive already interested, most of them shut their minds off after a few minutes, deciding that what they're hearing does not matter or is the same old blah blah blah. It's a way of passing quick judgement on someone, a reflex action in people who think they have no time or mental energy to 'waste'. But no one can listen, learn, grow or experience anything when they're in a shut-down mode. (Really, many of us don't even know how to listen anymore, much less bother to actually do it.) There's no personal growth or time savings when you're just sitting there numb. Then, there are those who assume from the start that they already know more than the speaker, or that they've so 'freed' themselves from stale ideas that they can safely ignore anyone who speaks of such stuff. Thus, they ignore any true testimony or practical wisdom which comes from the mouth of the 'foolish' preacher.
  • Part of the homiletic problem is with the presenter. Very few have real skills and gifts for effective preaching or speaking. To be honest, many preachers don't really believe much of what they're saying, it's just a part of their job. This is made worse by reliance on re-run sermons, and sermons that are mostly stolen from other preachers (or from web sites like this one). Some of these are classic old sermons which were effective in their day, or were originally from a really good minister who was more than just a 'preacher' to those who heard the sermon. Many ordained clergy see themselves as part of the class of tell-ers, who know the faith better than the ones they're sermonizing to. How will they ever connect to those who they think of as lower-ranking when it comes to faith? Or those they aren't around enough to understand? Worst of all, how can they be selfless enough to rely on the Spirit to make it all work, when they don't really live in an active relationship with that Spirit, through devotions, Bible study, spiritual disciplines, and a lot of listening and thinking and acting on it?

Most seminaries and Bible schools are only beginning to get at the problems of homiletic method, don't really understand today's people, and do a poor job of guiding their future ministers into a life that is not just vaguely spiritual, but specifically Christlike. (They're taught the importance of belief, but their own faith is not well-nurtured.) Even worse, some budding young preachers are paper-trained into a mindset for writing sermons to preach about the importance of preaching. As long as this foundation remains so soft, the sermon, in whatever form, will keep dying, and no class in homiletics or the 'art' of preaching will save it.

You can also check the dictionary for homiletics and to preach. But church leaders need to redefine preaching and homiletics.

Not to be mistaken for homieletics, preaching to your neighborhood supporters and friends. Homieletics is a cousin word to the phrase 'preaching to the choir', and is done just as loudly but a bit more carefully.


Homiletics class can unmake a good preacher.

Three On Sermons

"There will be a meeting of the Board up here in front immediately after the service," the pastor announced.

So when the service ended, the Church Board gathered for their meeting. But among them was a stranger, a visitor who'd never been in their church before. The pastor asked him, "Don't you know that this is a meeting of the Board?"

"Yeah," said the visitor. "After today's sermon, I reckon I'm as bored as anyone else here."


A preacher's little son asked, "Daddy, every Sunday before you start preaching, you get up there and bow your head. What are you doing?"

The father explained, "I'm asking God to give me a good sermon."

The son asked, "Then why don't he?"


After the church service a little boy told the pastor, "When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money."

"Well, thank you," the pastor replied, "but why?"

The boy said, "Because my daddy says you're the poorest preacher we've ever had."


What Is a Pulpit?

Pulpit : a podium or lectern, used inside a church building. Pulpits serve a practical purpose as a stand for holding notes and wired microphones. It is a place to which all eyes can be drawn and all attention can be focused. That's why podiums abound in auditoriums, classrooms, and legislative halls. That's good and even necessary, to a point. Yet the pulpit also serves a purpose that's not so good: it sets the speaker apart from the audience. Such a thing is highly problematic in Christian churches today, because one of the things that drives people away from the church is the feeling that ministers are treated as an 'authority' class that merits our special attention and focus, especially when they preach sermons. It is, of course, their message which very much warrants such attention. But that message needs no help from a pulpit, podium, or lectern. All it needs is any person who thoughtfully and honestly shares it. Christianity is about Jesus Christ, a God who went out to be among us where we are. A pulpit says the opposite, just by being there.

You can also look up 'pulpit' in the dictionary.


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ver.: 03 June 2012
Homiletics and Sermons. Copyright © 2005-2012 by Robert Longman.