Friday, October 1, 2010

Squeezing the Sermon Turnip

The other day, Brandon Cox of Saddleback Church wrote about repurposing sermons to get as much out of them as possible. The argument is that since sermons take so much effort to produce they should be used to the maximum. Having repurposed sermons on numerous occasions in the past, I get his point, however, as I considered the concept in that light I began to question the wisdom of that.

My first problem with trying to squeeze everything we can out of a sermon is that the people who’ll be seeing the repurposed sermon may not be in the target audience of the original sermon. For example, suppose a pastor in a fishing village preaches a sermon, we package that sermon up and play it for Rick Warren’s usually audience at Saddleback Church. I’m guessing it wouldn’t go over well, and yet it may have been a very effective sermon in the other church. It is important that we realize that we can’t divorce the message from the audience.

Another issue is that I don’t see why we should spend so much time repurposing sermons when there are other things that are just as costly that we never repurpose. Many churches have a children’s church. While the pastor is preaching his heart out, there’s another lesson going on in another part of the building. It may have taken just as much or more time to prepare, but the only people who’ll hear it are a handful of children. The only reason we have for repurposing the sermon but not the lessons taught by other teachers is that the sermon is sitting there ready for us to use. If it is going to require significant resources to repurpose the sermon, we should give it careful thought.

There’s a difference between seeing a need that we can take care of by repurposing a sermon and trying to find several ways to repurpose a sermon. For example, if someone contacts us to ask about a particular topic and the pastor recently preached on the topic, it might save us time to point the person to that sermon for help. On the other hand, if we’re looking for ways to repurpose sermons, we may expend a great deal of effort only to have most of the things we did ignored by most people. So, repurpose sermons if it helps you accomplish something, but don’t spend too much time trying to get everything you can out of them.