I miss preachers who are so passionate about their sermons that they display, dare I say it, emotion. I am tired of people talking to me about what is seemingly to them nothing more than an academic topic, no more enthralling or life-changing than an econ lecture. Speak to my heart. When I leave church, I want an assignment. Challenge me to invite God into every aspect of my life, not just on Sunday morning. Don't spend so much time rhyming or using your laser pointer to show me where Paul preached.
How do I hold on when everything in me says: "Quit!" "God is not real!" "This is all a crock!" Show me how to profess my faith to a world that is lost and destroying itself. Make me uncomfortable by touching the issues that we have learned to avoid. Pray as you prepare your sermons, and it will show.
-- Cheryl M. Wallace, Fairfax
The sermon needs to be 20 minutes, and no longer. I can't stay awake longer than 20 minutes while seated in my pew, waiting for lunch and football to start at 1 p.m.
I like a sermon that deals with the basic issues of life, and how it relates to my faith. I want a sermon that acknowledges that life is not all black and white, that God loves us amid all life's struggles, and that Jesus Christ is our key to making life work.
I don't like sermons that are surface -- the pastor read a verse, looked up some words in a dictionary, added an entertaining story and called it a good sermon. That's a waste of my time.
-- Charles Gluck, Reston
The main problem with sermons is the heart is cut out of them. The purpose of a sermon is to call the sheep to Christ. Christ's purpose was to seek and to save the lost -- all of us.
Entertaining, interesting, so-called "good" sermons have nothing to do with it. Going into damnation with a big smile on your face isn't going to make hell any easier. More disciples walked away from Christ than stayed in John 6, because they preferred something "good." But Christ didn't change it for them, so why do we?
-- Michael Brown, Fort Washington
I prefer expositional sermons that explore hard-to-understand texts and honestly grapple with the Bible in a relevant and thoughtful way.
I dislike it when a sermon selectively picks biblical texts to justify the preacher's opinions on social and political issues. I don't want to hear that: Jesus was liberal or conservative; Jesus didn't judge; Jesus told us to accept everyone or anything; Jesus was for lower or higher taxes.
-- Dennis McKeon, Arlington
Many preachers say to worshipers, "Turn to your neighbor and say . . . " I am noticing now that people look very annoyed and make no attempt to turn to their neighbors and say anything. Some look embarrassed, and with good reason. Sometimes, this goes on for several minutes.
People come to hear the Word of God, not to indulge in one-liners with strangers or even family while service is in session.
-- Tracy N. Wood, New Carrollton
I tend to agree with Emerson, who observed in his Divinity College address of 1838 that "the true preacher can be known by this, that he deals out to the people his life -- life passed through the fire of thought."
Nothing so eats away at a minister's credibility than the tendency to preach "at" a congregation while keeping from public view his or her own struggles with the difficult parts of the Scriptures.
-- Jim Sanders, Falls Church
Sermons are not designed to be liked or disliked. They are designed to instruct and to inspire the listener. It is not about us, it is about glorifying God with our obedience to Him, so that we can do the work for His kingdom.
-- Rosetta Kelly, Washington
Next month's question: Do you agree or disagree with religious leaders who say it is morally irresponsible to drive a gas-guzzling vehicle? E-mail your answer (100 words or less) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a daytime telephone number. For more answers to today's question, go to www.washingtonpost.com/religion.