By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
What are relevant sermons? The question comes to mind because one of the things we frequently see in newspaper ads from Bible-believing churches is the fact that the sermons are relevant. This is a good thing, for that is what sermons should be. But what determines their relevancy? The felt needs of the listeners? Subjects which are of interest to them, whether or not they deal with felt needs? What the speakers know to be going on, or think to be going on, in the minds and lives of those who listen to their sermons? Or is sermon relevancy determined by some other factor or factors?
These questions reveal one thing about sermon relevance: it is always to some degree a subjective thing. By which I mean, no matter how seriously the speaker takes his sermons, no matter how much he prays about his sermons, no matter how much he thinks his sermons on a given day are what are best for his listeners, the subjects about which he decides to preach may or may not be what they really need to hear at that time. Or, the subject may be exactly what one or a few of his listeners need to hear, but not what is really relevant to the others. The reason is this: only rarely can one sermon speak to the needs of everyone in the congregation, at least when it comes to felt needs or subjects of interest.
But the primary point I want to bring to your attention is that observation has led me to believe that many Bible-believing churches which emphasize the relevancy of their sermons do not address some, and maybe many, Biblical subjects of great importance. And the importance of these subjects makes them always relevant in the sense that listeners need to be well-taught in them. There is great relevance in the theology of the Bible, and the Bible is a profoundly theological book. It is the infallible Word of God, and in it God has revealed the most important themes about which we can think.
Preachers of relevant sermons do well to preach, for example, about personal peace, harmonious relationships, raising children, and how to handle money. But their listeners also need to be fed the meat of God’s Word through sermons on its great theological themes. Sermons on Biblical theology will help Christians grow in personal holiness, protect them from many false doctrines, inform them about God’s future glorious plans for the nation Israel, teach them Biblical facts concerning the forthcoming new heavens and the new earth, let them know what God’s Word says will happen in these last days of apostasy from the faith, and will, of course, indoctrinate them in many other Biblical truths.
Some persons might not think of these things as being relevant to the Christian life. But we are told in 2nd Timothy 3:16 & 17 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (New King James Version)
This being true about the Bible, one of the most relevant things a preacher can do is to expound on some of the great theological books of the Bible. These include the pastoral letters, the letter to the Galatians, the letter to the Romans, the 2nd letter of Peter, and the letter of Jude.
Jude’s letter has only 25 verses, but it is a goldmine of truth which Christians today need to be taught because it tells us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” meaning all Christians. This letter is very relevant because it warned about the apostasy (departure) from the faith that came through false teachers in Jude’s day, and who had infiltrated churches at that time to spread their apostasy. What took place back then is taking place now. This is a very relevant topic about which to preach. It is not popular, but it is Biblically relevant. Unfortunately, many preachers ignore this subject.