Christianity Knowledge Base

A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, or religious topic, usually expounding on a type of belief or law.

The delivery of sermons[]

Sermons are usually, but not always, delivered in a house of worship, most of which have a pulpit or ambo, an elevated architectural feature from which sermons are given. Sermons are occasionally known as homilies, especially in the Roman Catholic Church and similar traditions. The word "sermon" comes from a Middle English word which was derived from an Old French term, which in turn came from the Latin word sermō; ("discourse"). (Actually, it meant "conversation", and early sermons were delivered in the form of question and answer, only later did it come to mean a monologue)

In modern language, the word "sermon" can also be used pejoratively in secular terms to describe a lengthy or tedious speech delivered with great passion to a disinterested audience. A sermonette is a short sermon.

Famous preachers of sermons[]

The most famous sermon is probably the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth. This sermon was probably delivered around 30 CE and is accounted by the Gospel of Matthew as being delivered on a mount on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. Some modern Biblical scholars believe that Jesus did not actually give the speech as is traditionally thought, and that the sermon was instead complied later from precepts said by Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount lays out the core principles of Christianity. During the later history of Christianity, several figures became known for their sermons or a particularly significant sermon. Sermonizers of the early church include Saint Stephen, Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzus. Sermons in this era were used to spread Christianity across Europe and Asia Minor. During the Middle Ages sermons were used to start new religious orders (Dominic, Francis of Assisi). Pope Urban II began the First Crusade at November 1095 Council of Clermont in France when he exhorted French knights to retake the Holy Land in Palestine.

The sermon takes center stage in Protestantism[]

Later the Reformation led to Protestant sermons, many of which defended the schism with the Roman Catholic Church and explained new beliefs on scripture and devotion. Since the distinctive doctrines of Protestantism held that salvation was by faith alone, and convincing people to believe the Gospel and place trust in God for their salvation through Jesus Christ was the decisive step in salvation, in Protestantism the sermon and hymn came to replace the Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship. To rouse deeper faith in the churchgoers, rather than have them partake in a ritual, was the goal of Protestant worship conditioned by these beliefs.

In the 1700s and 1800s during the Great Awakening, major sermons were made at revivals, which were especially popular in the United States. These sermons were noted for their harsh "fire-and-brimstone" message, typified by Jonathan Edwards's famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" speech.

Notable preachers of sermons[]

Many sermons have been written down, collected and published. Such sermons include John Wesley's 53 Standard Sermons, John Chrysostom's Homily on the Resurrection (preached every Easter in Orthodox churches) and Gregory Nazianzus' homily "On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ" (preached every Christmas in Orthodox churches).

Types of sermons[]

There are a number of different types of preaching, that differ both by their subject matter and by their intended audience. Not all types of preaching are within the gift of every preacher. These types of preaching include:

  • Topical preaching - concerned with a particular subject of current concern;
  • Biographical preaching - tracing the story of a particular biblical character through a number of parts of the Bible;
  • Evangelistic preaching - seeking to convert the congregation or bring them back to their previous faith through a recounting of the Good News;
  • Expository preaching - exegesis, or preaching from a text and seeking to expound the text to the congregation;
  • Redemptive-Historical Preaching - Preaching that takes into consideration the context of any given text within the broader history of salvation as recorded in the canon of the bible.

Delivery methods[]

Sermons also differ on the amount of time and effort used to prepare them.

  • Scripted preaching - preaching with a previous preparation, it can be with help of notes or a script, or rely on the memory of the preacher.
  • Extemporaneous preaching - preaching without notes and sometimes without preparation.
  • Impromptu preaching - preaching without previous preparation.

See also[]

External links[]

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