Last night I was with a group of our church people at an event that I will try to keep vague. The first night was intended to be evangelistic and toward that end a world-famous evangelist was asked to speak. I have heard this evangelist before, and benefit from and enjoy his preaching.
Last night, I wanted to weep, however. The sermon was fair, but what had me shaking my head was that he did not pay attention to announce the correct scripture refs. Almost to a one, every scripture reference he announced was wrong. Several times he asked us to “turn to John chapter 37”. (He wanted John 7:37). He repeated this mistake numerous times in looking at this passage. Later he spoke from “John 17:19-24. When he began to read, it was obvious that that was not the correct scripture. Fortunately from the context I knew that it was John 16, not 17.
But what broke my heart was that sitting in front of me and to my left was the brother in law of one of our church guys. He is a non-believer for whom I and others have been praying. I was flabbergasted that he even came to an event like this. And so I had been sending up prayers all night on his behalf.
It was so incredibly frustrating to watch this guy try to find the correct scriptures while the preacher spoke. I am sure that he missed a great deal of what he was saying because although he quickly found John he kept rifling through the pages trying to find the text.
Now, I understand and believe that the Holy Spirit can and does work in spite of our feeble efforts. But why do we have to make it harder for him than necessary? Being Spirit-led in our preaching surely does not leave out looking down at notes to make sure you are giving the correct references.
There was a booklet for the event with a page on which to take sermon notes. The title of the message was provided, but no scriptures. There was an incredible video system in place and being used for the music. But it was not used at all during the sermon except to project the speaker’s image. (And I am not complaining about that). But surely there is someone in the organization who could have been given the references, even minutes before the program who could have plugged in 2-3 scripture references and projected them so people could easily find the correct place when the evangelist failed.
While I no longer project the text of the main scripture during my sermons, I do always project the reference and page number for the pew Bibles. (This event was held at an area mega-church and the guy was looking through a pew Bible).
At the end of the space for sermon notes, there were five discussion questions. At the end of the sermon we were to turn to a couple of guys around us and discuss the questions. I was not sitting in close enough proximity to this man to include him, but when we began to discuss the questions, my frustration increased again, because the questions were ones that bore very little connection to what had been preached.
Again, this allowed the man to be distracted from the evangelistic thrust of the message.
I am currently praying that the guy will come back for the second day, but my heart weeps for what may have been a grand opportunity lost.
May my preaching be more focused than what my homiletical brother’s was because of my exposure to this.