I speak in churches up and down the east coast. I have even spoken in churches as far west as New Mexico. Most of the services I have been involved in were deeply moving. I felt honored to speak at them. But from time to time, I am part of a worship service that seems disjointed, sometimes so much so that it is hard to figure out the point of the service or to follow the flow of worship. On the rare occasion that happens, I often go away spiritually unsatisfied. I suspect others feel the same lack of spiritual nourishment.
Perhaps such services are simply poorly planned. But in my personal experience, most of the disjointed services I have had to participate in seemed so disconnected because they contained far too many “mini-sermons” that did not complement the rest of the service. I use the term “mini-sermon” to refer to the tendency of some people who have been asked to take part in the service to talk about their pet issues instead of, or in addition to, whatever they were supposed to do. While I think it is wonderful for various people to read a scripture, say a prayer, share a testimony, offer special music, collect the offering or make an announcement during a worship service, I do not appreciate it when people who are asked to do those things “hi-jack” the service and take it in a different direction than it was headed. Though people often say they feel led by the Spirit do to these things, there is only one Spirit and He is a God of order, not one of confusion. Therefore, when a service is hi-jacked confuses people, it is not from the Spirit.
Mini-sermons seldom offer anything coherent to the worship service. Quite to the contrary, such speeches often detract from the point of the worship service. Though mini-sermons can take many forms, in my experience they most often scold the congregation about whatever the speaker thinks the congregation should have been doing. For example, a person singing special music may scold the congregation for not coming to choir practice. A person taking the offering may scold the congregation for not giving as much as the person thinks they should. A person reading scripture may make it a point to promote their favorite version of scripture and scold the congregation for using any other version. Seldom do those speakers realize how hard it is for the next person to follow such a negative and disjointed talk. Nor do they realize how much time they take away from the rest of the service.
Recently I was in a service in which there were three such mini-sermons. None of which had any connection to the rest of the service. When put together, those three mini-sermons soaked up most of the time that should have been devoted to the actual “sermon.” I happened to be the speaker that day and when it finally came time for me to speak there was only 15 minutes left in the time allotted for the sermon. Considering that I had driven several hours to get to the church, I was not about to speak for only 15 minutes. I went ahead and gave my full sermon. Unfortunately, that caused the service to go twenty minutes overtime. A few people joked that I was long winded. Though I was kind to my detractors, it was clear to me that the reason the service went over was all the unplanned mini-sermons that took up all the extra time and had nothing to do with the rest of the service.
How I wish church leaders could find the courage to instruct people not to give mini-sermons when they get up to say a prayer, sing a song, or read a scripture. Or, if a church feels that such mini-sermons are an important part of the service, people should be trained to make the mini-sermon fit the rest of the service and the length of the service should be adjusted to reflect the extra time those mini-sermons take. But it is unfair to expect the person who is suppose to preach the sermon to cut in half that sermon which he has worked so hard to prepare simply because someone else decided to wax eloquent on some issue that was important to them, but not to the rest of the body.
Well, that’s my mini-sermon on mini-sermons. Enough said.