The preaching in the Old Testament was normally done by prophets and priests. However, these speeches were not regular. They were done only on certain occasions and often only when God had something to say to His people. These "speeches" also allowed active participation and interruptions by the audience, including the preaching that was later done in the Jewish synagogues.
The preaching in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles followed the same pattern. It was sporadic, took many forms, was delivered on special occasions to address certain problems, and also involved audience participation. The every-member-functioning church we see in 1 Corinthians 14 was marked by interruptions as well. Never do you find a single person developing a weekly sermon that was given to a quiet, captive audience.
Around the third century, as we already discussed, the Christian church began to be move from the home into buildings, the service became institutionalized, and a hierarchical structure began to take root. At that time, many pagan orators and philosophers were becoming Christian and thus naturally began to take on roles of early theologians and leaders of the Christian church. They began to use their Greek-Roman oratory skills for Christian purposes, and the sermon was born, a masterpiece of polished rhetoric, flowery eloquence, and strictly a monologue, devoid of listener participation. The sermon became the privilege of church officials trained in schools to learn how to deliver it best.
Throughout the centuries Christian leaders have further raised the importance of the sermon to where it has become the center of the service today and the reason most people attend church. The famous theologian, John Calvin, argued that the preacher was the "mouth of God".
- The sermon makes the preacher the main performer of the church, making the church a preaching station and relegates the congregation into a group of muted spectators.
- The sermon stalemates spiritual growth by encouraging passivity
- The sermon creates an unhealthy and unscriptural dependence on the pastor for one's Biblical knowledge
- The sermon makes church distant and impersonal
- The sermon does not equip the saints for their own ministry. This can only be done by experience and apprenticeship.
- Some sermons can be very impractical, being more inspirational, feel-good, and lacking practical application.
Let's face it, very few Christians are transformed by weekly sermons. They may be inspired, they may even apply some of the things they learn, but it is only through personal, meaningful encounters with Jesus can anyone truly be changed. And those encounters rarely come during a sermon. They come in our private times with the Lord and also in personal and deep fellowship with other Christians.
(Taken from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna)