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Do You Read Sermons?

DukeChapel.jpgI do not have a life-long habit of reading sermons, though I have read sermons at times in my career. I have numbers of pastor friends who routinely listen to sermons and do so for both formational reasons and for their own development as preachers. I tend to use my quieter times for praying and for pondering and for thinking or for listening to music. 

Questions: Do you listen to or read sermons? What are your habits? What do you get from sermons? Who are your favorites?
But recently I purchased and began reading sermons from Sermons from Duke Chapel: Voices from “A Great Towering Church”
, and I headed immediately for Tom Long’s sermon at the back. I heard Tom preach in Nashville and his rare giftedness, made up as it is of pastoral earnestness and potent storytelling, is something I admire in preachers. What I hoped to get from this collection is sermons that are both unlike my low-church evangelical tradition as well as examples of some of the most famous preachers of the 20th Century.
My but there’s some famous preachers in this volume.
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K. Rex Butts

posted December 18, 2009 at 12:19 am

I occasionally read and/or listen to sermons (I read about as many as I listen to) but the percentage in not great. One reason is that I don’t want to accidently begin plagiarizing someone elses sermon styly and I don’t have the technological toys necessary to listen to sermons when I have the time, which is when I am driving in the car (although I have considered breaking down and buying an I-Pod).
Grace and peace,

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Jeremy Berg

posted December 18, 2009 at 1:17 am

Be careful before you buy an iPod — it can radically alter your reading/listening habits. My iPod has turned me into a sermon junkie. I subscribe to dozens of podcasts (many sermons) and plow through them on my 1.5 hr commute each day. Favorite preachers include: Greg Boyd, Will Willimon, Rob Bell, John Piper, Erwin McManus, Mark Driscoll — purposefully diverse viewpoints.
So, I don’t read sermons. How many like me have let their constant listening to sermons replace their reading and prayer time? How many have let blogging suck away their Bible study and devotional reading?
New Years resolutions are in order here… But iPods are powerful learning tools for those who’s StrengthsFinder strengths include Learner, Intellect, Input, and folks who can’t get enough mind stimulation!

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John W Frye

posted December 18, 2009 at 6:01 am

I only occasionally listen to sermons and my favorite pastor is John Ortberg.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 7:04 am

Once in a while I will read an online sermon. I love Bishop N.T. Wright. And I have read some good ones by Father Cantalamessa who is the Franciscan priest who preaches to the Papal Household. You can see sermons by him at I read Michael Spencer’s internetmonk site regularly and though they may not be technically “sermons” they can feel like that.
I prefer reading to listening as I can read faster than listen and I don’t have an ipod, though I have to say I have considered getting one for just this purpose to listen to in the car or at work. (Does anyone know whether it is better to have an ipod or an MP3 player or are they the same thing??)

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Dion Forster

posted December 18, 2009 at 9:27 am

Hi Scott,
I do read sermons – in fact I found Peter Storey’s sermon in the Duke Chapel series most inspiring! I received a copy of the book from a friend who teaches at Duke (Laceye Warner). I have used the book as a devotional aid and found it very helpful. I enjoy reading well written sermons. Unlike academic texts (which have a didactic purpose) they are frequently quite challenging and even encouraging. A sermon tends to have the listener / reader in mind, instead of a focus on research data.
I also listen to podcasts of other sermons (our very own, South African, Trevor Hudson is a favorite). I find that it allows me to hear the Gospel from a different perspective (Paul Duke from the USA is another favorite). For the pastor / scholar who seldom gets to ‘sit’ in worship recorded sermons can be a great joy and blessing!
Rich blessing from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

I read sermons, especially if they are by Stanley Hauerwas. I’ve recently been working through his collection called “The Cross-Shattered Church” which has been very powerful. My suggestion is to read them in a weekend devotional time when you have a bit more time than usual.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 9:55 am

I occasionally listen to sermons. I like Otis Moss III, Rev. Marvin McMickle and Dr. C. Ronald Williams. But for the most part, I prefer listening to music also and undertaking quieter endeavors like reading and listening to the Spirit.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 10:00 am

I like to listen to sermons but don’t have a ton of time to, so I usually only get to hear Rob Bell. Are there any good sources online for reading sermons? Reading would be more efficient.

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Benj Petroelje

posted December 18, 2009 at 10:19 am

In no way am I an avid reader or podcaster of sermons. But the one book of sermons that I couldn’t put down was “Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons” by Frederick Buechner. I was in a “Communication and Preaching” class a few years ago at Taylor University and as an end of the semester gift our professor got us all a copy of the book. On the back cover of the book, Rob Bell says it haunted him the whole way through – what I think is a pretty apt description.
There’s something about the way Buechner writes (and I presume speaks). There’s a giftedness to his ability to draw out a depth in the text via story that the reader/listener didn’t even know was there. It’s charming; it’s generous; it’s thought-provoking; it’s challenging and it’s haunting all at the same time. And it’s short – I’m not sure how he does it but he gets the same message across in 4 pages that most pastors try for in 40 minutes.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 10:30 am

Years ago I not only listened to Fred Craddock sermons, I aped Fred Craddock sermons. :-)

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posted December 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

I read and listen to others’ sermons on occasion. I find listening to sermons more helpful than reading them because preaching is an oral event. But either way, I learn from others about content, style, structure, delivery, etc. I find it discouraging at times because what I find is that I do not come close to the “greats.” That’s point of the exercise, to learn from those who are better at it than me. But I also have to remember that many of them do not preach regularly for the same church (even twice weekly like some of my friends!) and so have a lot of time to craft and polish their beautiful works. Or their schedules have large chunks dedicated to preparation, a blessing some of us don’t have because of our other jobs or demands. But, yes. There is much to learn from hearing and reading others’ sermons, both of the greats and lesser-known preachers.

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Jeremy Berg

posted December 18, 2009 at 11:24 am

To those who are thinking about getting an iPod let me entice you further. The amount of FREE audio sermons, lectures, university/seminary level courses and so on is limitless and only a download away.
iTunes U, for instance, has tons of free lectures from reputable scholars from top universities.
If you like to learn, spend a lot of time in the car and are tired of buying audio books at astronomical prices, then put an iPod on your Christmas list this year. Put it off no longer! =)

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Your Name

posted December 18, 2009 at 11:29 am

I have read the sermons of various people. Sometimes I will read the sermons of one person for a few months or longer. For several years, when William Willimon was at Duke Chapel, I read his weekly sermons. At other times, I have enjoyed reading the sermons of Frederick Buechner and Fred Craddock. Now, when I do read someone’s sermons, they are typically by John Ortberg.
Typically, when I am reading a sermon, I am doing this for my own inspiration or interest. Typically, I do this because I rarely hear a sermon on a Sunday. (Since I am usually the one delivering the sermon in our church each Sunday.)

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Jim Martin

posted December 18, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Not sure what I did wrong in my comment above. Anyway, I wrote #13

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Jeff Borden

posted December 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I do not read a lot of sermons, but there are some on my list. I continually revisit the sermons of John Wesley, but wish they were updated to a more “NLT” style vernacular. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones is probably the most readable and enjoyable sermons that I read (and buy) in book form.
Listening, as others have mentioned, has been revolutionized in “my world” by the iPod. I listen to sermon series by many, many current and past preachers. Additionally, conferences, seminars, and seminary lectures are often found on my iPod.
I generally love hearing the collective and diverse voices of the Church; past and present. I’m thankful for the technology we have today that makes our world so much more accessible.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I haven’t commented here for a long time but this was interesting as it is something I have wondered at about myself – the sermon listening habit. I have read and loved sermons of Buechner and even Karl Barth but I have a habit of tuning into the pastor from the church where I first came to Christ almost 14 years ago. I tune in and let it play on the computer while I fold laundry once per week (yep, I’m terrible at laundry but the sermons make it something close to enjoyable). I feel like it is okay to listen to the sermons because I have a relationship with that church even though I no longer live in that area and attend. I go there and visit them when I am in the States visiting my family and almost always find a few faces who remember mine.
The temptation to listen to others is there, but I feel like it could turn into something of a spiritual gorging for me so I am avoidant. Grace church and the laundry once a week is just enough food for my thoughts.

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Clay Knick

posted December 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I’ve read and listened to sermons for years. In fact, one of the ways I’ve improved as a preacher is by listening to and reading others. Years ago when Bill Hinson was at First UMC, Houston I got his sermons on tape. The first year I paid for them, when they found out I was a UM pastor I got them for free for many years. I listened until he retired. I’ve read Long, Willimon, Craddock, Ortberg, Wright, and a host of others. I don’t steal from them, but I do learn from them and if they do something I like, that speaks to me, and I use it in a sermon I always, always give them credit. I loved Fleming Rutledge’s sermons on Romans. When Preaching Today used to send tapes each month or so I subscribed. Listening to others has helped me find my own gifts and encouraged me that “I can do that.” It has been fun. Reading sermons has been fun, too.

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Erika Haub

posted December 18, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I have the Duke book and enjoyed it immensely! In the past, I have listened to Darrell Johnson (when he was at Glendale) and John Piper online, and have tapes of Willimon and Brenda Salter McNeil that I listen to on occasion. I am more inclined to read sermons and love Thielicke, Lloyd Jones and Peter Storey to name a few.

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Your Name

posted December 18, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I have approx. 30 books of sermons, mostly from 1872- 1940. Books of sermons were big sellers a hundred years ago and many sermons were printed in newspapers. Mine are mostly from R.J. Campbell (Anglican-Catholic priest in England), Phillips Brooks (Episcopal priest and Bishop of Massachusetts), William Ralph (Dean) Inge (Anglican professor of divinity at Cambridge), Stoppford Brooke, F.W. Robertson,
and Horace Bushnell. I also download a lot of sermons and listen to them at night as I’m going to favorites are N.T. Wright,
Peter Jensen (Anglican Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral- Sydney Australia–he is really good!), J.I. Packer ( Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia), Simon Manchester (Rector at St Thomas Anglican North Sydney), and Ron Kuykendall (Episcopal Missionary Church).

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posted December 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Technically you don’t read a sermon, since a sermon is a unique act of oral communication between a preacher and a community at a particular point in time. What we read is a transcript of a sermon that has already been delivered.

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Bill Crawford

posted December 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I’ve read Lloyd-Jones and listen to Francis Chan (Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA) and David Platt (in Birmingham). I prefer reading, but can listen while otherwise engaged. But I need to listen more than once.

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Jeff Lutz

posted December 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

I don’t usually read sermons I listen to the podcasts of:
Rob Bell – Mars Hill Bible Church, Grandville, MI
Brian Zahnd – Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, MO
Rick McKinley – Imago Dei Community, Portland, OR

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posted December 21, 2009 at 11:45 am

I have a couple of books of sermons, but mostly I listen to them during my commute or while exercising. I’ve listened to Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and a few others, but usually not all in the same week. Because of the sheer amount of podcasts and free resources out there, I have to be careful not to be a sermon glutton.
#18 Erika – If you are ever interested in listening to Darrell Johnson again, he was called earlier this year to be the pastor of First Baptist in Vancouver, BC. His sermons are available on their Web site.

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posted January 4, 2010 at 9:12 am

I love to listen to Samuel Wells, dean of Duke University Chapel and research professor of Christian ethics at Duke Divinity School. I was at a talk given by Stanley Hauerwas and he told me to read his (Hauerwas) books but to do what Samuel Wells says.

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