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There's wide consensus: The quality and applicability of homilies/sermons vary widely from parish to parish.

This is something that all Christian churches need to take seriously because people will invariably drift from a faith and drift from a formal religious assemblage if they can't connect the message at Mass with their own lives.

So here's my question: - How can a Christian seek out the best Homilists/Preachers?

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point of order, is the quality of the preaching the only factor you use to determine a place of worship? –  wax eagle Sep 24 '12 at 1:33
    
@wax eagle: Actually, yes. Geography might have something to do with it too, but I'd be willing to drive 20 minutes for a good homily. Do you think my emphasis is misplaced? –  Jim G. Sep 24 '12 at 1:49
    
potentially, yes. –  wax eagle Sep 24 '12 at 2:11
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Is this on-topic? It seems more like advice than a question about doctrine or theology. The StackOverflow equivalent would be "How do I choose a good programming language", which would have been closed in two minutes, tops. Quite hnestly, whatnmakes for "good preaching" is subjective and personal. Even my wife and I don't agree on the type of preaching we like. I like blunt, honest, convicting messages that preach against sin, where she likes more "uplifting" messages about loving as Christ does. The only way to find good preaching in your area is to visit many Churches. –  David Stratton Sep 24 '12 at 2:51
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I think this is a good question, it might be better given a doctrinal framework, like Catholicism, that traditionally has frowned up on (or downright anathematized) parish hopping. –  Peter Turner Sep 24 '12 at 3:30
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closed as off topic by David Stratton, Affable Geek, Andrew, Bruce Alderman, Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 16:58

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2 Answers

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By going to church. Period.

As one who has preached for a long time, I can tell you that fancy oratory, glitzy aids, cool programs, and all the best homeletics in the world cannot make up for a pastor who knows you like a shepherd knows his sheep.

Want to know why I stopped going to mega churches? Because I realized it was too easy to hide. I could be an anonymous consumer of great preaching, but all I did was get spiritually fat. I remember a mega church pastor telling me he felt like he was feeding cake to fat people. In a small church, when I neglect the gospel in my own life, I have four old ladies and several learned men who preach into my life in ways that Billy Graham or Billy Sunday could never match.

This is what is meant behind the often cliched phrase "life on life" preaching.

John Broaddus - almost universally considered "the father of homelitics" said this in "How can we help our pastor"

And when he begins to preach, cannot we help him to preach? Demosthenes is reported to have said (and he ought to have known something about it), that eloquence lies as much in the ear as in the tongue. Everybody who can speak effectively knows that the power of speaking depends very largely upon the way it is heard, upon the sympathy which one succeeds in gaining from those he addressed. If I were asked what is the first thing in effective preaching, I should say, sympathy; and what is the second thing, I should say, sympathy; and what is the third thing, sympathy. We should give our pastor sympathy when he preaches. Sometimes one good listener who does not care much about the gospel can put the sermon all out of harmony. The soul of a man who can speak effectively is a very sensitive soul, easily repelled and chilled by what is unfavorable, and easily helped by the manifestation of simple and unpretentious sympathy.

That sympaticos - the relational connection which drives home a sermon - can only be developed in person. Nothing else beats it.

So bottom line - want real preaching? Stop hiding behind "good preaching" and you'll find out how truly great it can be!

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I have to admit the personal connection with Broaddus. His uncle - William Broaddus - also a rather prominent Baptist - revived Long Branch Church, the church I was honored to hold for nearly 4 years. If you are unfamiliar with the Broadduses, but are concerned about preaching. He's the guy you want to read. –  Affable Geek Sep 24 '12 at 11:47
    
Wait. You voted to close this question? You don't think I was genuinely seeking an answer? I gave you +25! Thanks. –  Jim G. Sep 24 '12 at 22:03
    
I thought it was a genuine question- I just thought it too subjective for a scholarly answer. That's why it was initially comment. Until I found the Broaddus quote, I thought I was just giving an opinion rather than a defensible answer. No hard feelings, I hope- my intention was just to keep it all scholarly. I'm proud of this answer on a personal basis, but not really on a scholarly one... –  Affable Geek Sep 25 '12 at 2:53
    
This should be a blog topic. This is fantastic content, although I agree it's not expert QnA material. –  Caleb Sep 25 '12 at 20:18
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I was a little surprised in finding the answer to this question, from a Catholic perspective at least, kind of reversed the tradition of parishes representing a contiguous geographical area.


One of the precepts of the Catholic Church is to provide for the needs of the church, the church being the universal church, the diocese and the local parish where one is a member. I don't have the old canon reference for it, but anyone over 50 will tell you that one is "not really supposed to a parish across town".

But, if this were true, it would still say this in canon law, and it doesn't.

This, is what canon law says about the laity's obligation concerning Mass

Can. 1247 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Now, you're talking about homilies and sermons, other preaching and teaching is certainly up to you to find, but homilies and sermons would only be in the context of a greater form of worship and are definitely special creatures.

But, they're not the most important part. I don't know what the most important part of a protestant service is, but the most important part of the Catholic Mass is in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, not the Liturgy of the Word (which the homily is a part of) and that part, unless some profoundly illicit thing is happening, should have equal awesomeness wherever you go.


That being said a common complaint of apostates and other sorry folks is that, "they're not being fed" when they go to Mass. Well, in truth, unless they're avoiding communion, which I doubt, they are being fed. The problem is that they feel the preaching isn't reaching them. But, that's what G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis are for and those guys aren't even priests the priest has to talk about the scripture or some part of the Mass, he can't go off on a tangent every week about the horrors of pornography.

So, before I go off on a tangent and write more than you want to read :), the best advice I can give is to go to Mass early and pray and occasionally go to a church where you know the preaching is on fire, but make sure you provide for the needs of your local church because they probably provide a lot of important services, besides preaching, which is vitally important to the needs of your, more immediate, community.

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