- Make your sermon topical rather than expositional. People already know about pain and suffering. They want something applicable with lots of anecdotes and illustrations. They don't need to hear all the details of what God's Word has to say on the subject, but do feel free to throw in some random verses here and there.
- When dealing with such a serious topic, it's always good to break the ice with a joke. Say something like this: "When we ask questions like Why does God allow pain in my life? it really has a lot of similar questions that kind of butt up against it. Questions like Why is there suffering in the world? Questions like Why does God allow evil? Why do they sell hot dogs in packs of eight, but rolls in packs of 10? You know, really big questions that really get at the heart of what we're struggling with." Be sure to pause long enough for laughter.
- Maintain a man-centered perspective. (The congregation is made up of mere mortals, after all.) Stress the importance of free will. We aren't robots, so don't let your congregation think for even one second that things like evil and suffering may have been ordained by God. Sure, scripture teaches that our salvation was secured in Christ before the foundation of the world, but that doesn't mean God had everything planned ahead of time. Let's just try to stick to the subject at hand, shall we?
- Remember, you're coming at this from a man-centered perspective, so stick to three practical implications. God allows pain in our lives: 1) to grow our faith, 2) to focus our hope, and 3) to propel our love.
- Whatever you do, do not -- I repeat, do not -- bring up God's sovereignty or his glory. Once you do that, your sermon ceases to be man-centered, and people will tune out because you are no longer making it about them.
- Humor is especially effective at driving your points home. A joke about shooting your neighbor because his dog poops on your lawn, and then going to jail for it, can be a very effective way to convey the point that suffering can sometimes be the result of bad choices that we make. (You know, that whole free will thing.)
- This is a sermon, so you will want to mention Christ in there somewhere. Tell the people that Christ suffered and died on the cross to overcome the two biggest problems in our lives: sin and death. If you're delivering this sermon around Easter time, make it relevant by saying something like "That's what Easter is all about." Congregations like that kind of thing.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
How Not to Preach on Pain and Suffering
If you would like to know how not to preach a sermon on pain and suffering, just follow these simple guidelines: