This coming Sunday (April 28) we will use a panel discussion format to talk about Colossians 3:20-21, Ephesians 6:1-4, and the subjects of Christian family and parenting. Even though the truths of the text will give shape to the questions, it is true that we will not hear a sermon preached (one person proclaiming the Bible in monologue form). This may lead some of us to ask the questions, “Why do we need sermons and why shouldn’t we sometimes replace sermons with programs, plays, cantatas, and the like?”
Let me give a few answers to this question.
First, though I would not want to do a panel discussion in place of a sermon very often for the following reasons, this format still has the advantage of being shaped by careful study done on the text in such a way that the biblical text still gives shape to the discussion and direction of what is said. So Scripture remains central and authoritative.
Next, the monologue proclamation of God’s Word (preaching) has the advantage over other mediums of helping us remember that the Word of God is the only ultimate binding source of divine authority for the believer (e.g. Mt. 15:1-9; Acts 2:42; Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Additionally, the medium of preaching is one of the most effective ways of allowing the one who is called to be a pastor-teacher (Eph. 4:11) and given the gift of teaching (Rom. 12:7) to explain the Bible in a way that can lay an authoritative foundation for that church that can help guide that church in all other gospel and word ministry it does.
Finally, such preaching also lends itself to casting a clear unified biblical vision for a church that can bring us on the same page and guide us in a way that makes our times of other teaching and discussion most effective.
I am a firm believer in other kinds of teaching (including discussions, music, plays, skits, etc.). However, for the few reasons expressed above, preaching, i.e. the monologue proclamation of God’s Word, will always not only be needed, but also the main vehicle whereby we keep the Word of God central in the entire life of the congregation when we assemble together for our main times of instruction and worship.