I listened to two sermons today. Let me begin with the "second sermon." I was told that the second sermon was "good," so I decided to listen to it. It was on Facebook, and comments went even farther than "good," saying it was "great," "amazing," and even "awesome." I listened, and to be honest, I didn't really think it was any of those. I would label it, "okay" at best.
Nevertheless, I have listened to many "good," and even "great" sermons in my life. The tables beside my study chair are filled with notes taken from these sermons. I am thankful for these "good" and "great" sermons, and they are important. They are Bible based, teaching sermons which are usually expository (the best in my opinion), taking the Bible verse by verse and breaking it down, or topical, sharing what the Bible says on certain topics. We NEED these kinds of sermons. But....
Let's move to the "first sermon." I listened to this sermon simply because I usually listen to this pastor's sermons. After hearing it, I thought, "That was powerful!" After the second sermon, I began thinking about what the difference was between the two sermons. What made the first one so "powerful," and the second one "okay?" In fact, why do I end up labeling any sermon as "powerful," while labeling others as "good," "okay," or even "bad?"
Two common characteristics are always connected with a "powerful" sermon: #1. It is filled with Holy Spirit power. You can sense it. You can feel it. It is undeniable. #2. It is grounded in Scripture. In addition to this, are one or more of the following characteristics:
People all over the room are weeping.
People all over the room are on their faces.
Unsaved people flood to the altar crying out to be saved.
Saved people flood to the altar crying out in repentance for living lives not in line with the Bible.
Addictions and bondages are broken.
The sermon creates a renewed hunger for God's Word.
The sermon creates a renewed passion for worshipping God.
The sermon creates a renewed fire to go out and change the word for Christ.
After hearing sermons like these, if they are online, I immediately start thinking, "Who can I share this with?" "Who needs to hear it?" "Whose life can it change?"
Many "good" and "great" sermons have come and gone, and I have mostly forgotten what was said during them (although they live on in my notes, and I have used bits and pieces in my studies). And, the "okay" and "bad" sermons I generally forget before the day's end (in fact, sometimes I even forget what was said before the sermon is done). Honestly, I have had my fill of these Scripture light, sin light, judgment light, love heavy, self-help, feel good, "powerless" sermons.
On the other hand, I can still remember huge chunks of the "powerful" sermons, even years later. Some have changed my life. In fact, I was saved in October of 1994 at a Billy Graham Crusade after hearing a man share one of these (it wasn't Billy Graham).
While not technically a "sermon," this is also why I love to listen to people who share "powerful" testimonies from the pulpit of how they were saved. I actually heard one of these last week from a young man who came to America as a Muslim apologist, and eventually became a Christian. I have no doubt that at the end, dozens of people were saved when he led them in a salvation prayer.
As I said above, we need "good" and "great" sermons (amidst the millions of "bad" sermons), but as this world becomes increasingly godless, evil, and crazy, I find myself yearning more and more for Holy Spirit filled, life changing, "powerful" sermons, where the power of God is magnified and on display. I don't think I am alone in this.