Permission to Forget My Last Sermon

A question many pastors ponder is how to preach in a way that sticks in the minds of the hearers. Preachers have shortened their messages, made them more memorable through illustrations and multi-media, and increased interactivity through dialogue in an attempt to help hearers remember what was said Sunday morning.

Jonathan Edwards helps us gain some perspective:

The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.

This is relieving to me as I prepare to preach. The goal in preaching is not to deliver a memorable message, but one that will stir the hearts of the hearers in that precise moment of delivery.

I’ve heard preaching be compared to eating. Remembering what we ate this morning is not a requirement for being nourished by the food. Regardless of our memory, the food gave us sustenance. It gave us what our bodies needed to go on living.

Similarly, the edification of preaching is not dependant on memory. It acts as a sort of nourishment, providing sustenance for the life of the soul. It also offers gentle, or at times not so gentle, nudges that correct our bearing for the day or week. We listen to the Word of God proclaimed and it shifts our hearts so that every step we take from that moment forward moves us closer to holiness.

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