We’re not exactly sure what Paul’s preaching was like, we get a few hints here and there (1 Cor. 1-2), but in Acts 20:7-12 Paul preached for a really long time. So long in fact, that a young man went to sleep and fell out of a window. We’ve not all fallen out of a church window before but most of us, I can admit this too, have fallen asleep during a sermon.
By definition the word dull means this: not lively, spiritless, causing boredom, lacking depth or intensity, slow.
These words are usually not descriptive terms pastors want to hear attached to their own preaching. BUT sometimes it is. A dull sermon is one that leaves a lot to be desired. It may be chaotic, hard to follow, unstructured, dense, cramming too much into a little time, too brainy. Sometimes it may feel like eating very heavy pudding, or like walking in a dark little room with no windows to let light in. The sermon gives its hearers little to no methods of applying it to their lives, and was poorly presented for sure. Now, not every sermon is going to be a home-run, and yes, sometimes our pastors will strikeout. But still, don’t they have degrees for this reason?
I think for a sermon to be dull it means one thing: lacking in presentation. It may be 100% Biblically faithful, accurate to the text, delivered by a preacher who knows the truth, yet lacking all sorts of Holy Spirit power, and definitively boring. What then are we to do when those dull sermons come? A few things:
1) Pray: did you pray for your pastor before church? Did you pray for him at all during the week? If not, a dull sermon may be God’s answer to your prayerlessness. Lesson? Pray for your pastor.
2) Listen to the dull sermon: don’t walk out. Sit there and make yourself listen. It may make you tired to pay attention deeper than you normally do, but God will reveal Himself through His Word.
3) Seek your heart: why do you find it dull? Are you one who favors a kind of personality over the truth? Surely, the truth ought to be delivered with a passionate fire and power/unction from the Holy Spirit, but ask yourself if you really only like the cool, hip pastors downtown? If you do, be rebuked.
4) Pray & Learn: I’ve already touched on prayer, but seriously do it. Pray that God would cause something in the sermon to stick to your soul that would benefit His glory and your own good. He will answer, and you may be surprised at what you come out of that moment learning.
5) Encourage: You’re pastor may need some encouragement, so do it. Tell him what you liked about that passage, about his sermon (even if it was little), and if you can do so in a gracious manner tell him how to preach better. This may mean telling him to apply it deeper, stick to the text more, or seek to soak in the text throughout the week. Anything you say to your pastor will mean a lot, especially if he knows you are for him and want his success.
We’ve all been there, dull sermons are hard to get through…for both the pastor and the hearer. Settle down, sit back, pray, God will move…He always does.