One of the greatest myths in modern Christianity, particularly in the South1, is that any attempts to discuss the sermon amounts to disapproval of either the pastor or his message, or both.
Quite often those who dare to raise the question “What did you think about the sermon?” expecting anything other than the pat and unhelpful response of “I thought it was great!” are seen as gossips spreading discord and division.
Unfortunately this has the effect of stunting too many Christians’ spiritual growth by blocking off what can otherwise be a very fruitful avenue of discourse and discovery. As much as a pastor would like, they simply can’t exhaust the subject (whatever it may be) in one hour on Sunday morning, or three if you grant him Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
A large part of real discipleship is asking questions, and since many sermons are forgotten the moment we walk out the doors, discussion and debate would at the very least serve as a memory aid to help us keep the message fresh in our minds.
Try taking a poll sometime of who remembers last week, or this morning’s, sermon. If they do remember the general topic, press them for what they specifically learned or about details. For kicks, ask them afterwards where they ate and with whom afterwards. My hunch is that many people will be able to tell you what their conversations were about during lunch more than they could tell you about the content of the sermon they heard only a few hours earlier.
But there’s more to it than that.
We are told in Scripture that the Bereans, among others, searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was accurate or not2. While I’ve heard many pastors encourage this practice, I’ve heard fewer who also encourage real cross examination. Rather, most rush to add to their exhortation to search the Scriptures regarding their sermons to only ask them questions in private. However if we are to learn, examine, and grow we must be willing to talk publicly about what we’ve been taught. After all, if the pastor has slipped up, he should expect and encourage the correction of observant and loving brethren rather than, for the sake of false unity and a misguided and misapplied sense of authority, wish such falterings to remain in the dark.
I believe many churches would be radically transformed if the people in them would simply have the courage and conviction to question the sermons they hear in a loving and respectful manner.