homiletics (also sermon, homily, and preaching.)
pulpit (also lectern and podium).
On sermon quality.
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. It's about being with them and being part of the presence of God with them, in marriage and divorce, baptisms and funerals, youth and old age, loss and love. The whole of an ordained minister's life is meant to be dedicated to being a presentation or living example of the Good News. 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. (Without the Spirit, the hearer will not encounter God in the Word that is preached.) The Spirit's work through a preacher, in turn, does not usually take effect outside of much prayer and learning from the Bible, 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. Far too many ministers forgot that somewhere along the way.
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.
What's the Matter With Sermons?
So, what's the problem with sermons?
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 homilies to preach about the importance of sermons. 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.
"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. In older churches, it has sides, like a rather small cubicle, and may be elevated above the floor of the altar area. 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.
In the phrase "the pulpit", the word is a substitute word for the job or position or assignment of being a preacher at a specific place or congregation. (A phrase like it is "the pastorate".) This is because ministers typically stand behind a pulpit when preaching. Note how this emphasizes preaching over the other duties of the clergy. There is much more to being a commissioned or ordained minister than giving a sermon, even within the worship service. Describing the job as "the pulpit" sets up a skewed mental image of what he or she is being hired to do. It's not a term to totally avoid, if it's kept in the context of the other descriptives of the job, because preaching usually is an important part of the task. But as an employment description for a job, it is far too narrow and sets up the wrong expectations.
You can also look up 'pulpit' in the dictionary.
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|ver.: 02 March 2015
Homiletics and Sermons. Copyright © 2005-2015 by Robert Longman.