No such thing as a sermon for Christians

I was recently asked to preach at a church going through a topical series on church membership. I was asked to preach on the church member’s duty to pray.

As I was studying and writing I kept getting stuck on this reality: this sermon was being written purely for Christians.


I even had a short paragraph in the sermon manuscript, thanking non-Christians and visitors for attending, but, somewhat apologetically, noted that this would be more of an “in-house” message, for those who called this church home.

I thought this reality inescapable. The topic demanded it! It was on church membership and prayer, for goodness sakes! You can’t get much more Christianee than that.

Now, I didn’t want to exclude non-Christians. When I preach, I always try to preach and articulate the gospel with both Christians and non-Christians in view, knowing that both will be in the pews. But how could I preach a sermon that had a strong apologetic and evangelistic bend, while preaching on what seemed to be such a Christian focused topic and text?

I took a walk.

And this is what popped in my head: this sermon must be apologetic and evangelistic. It must be. It can’t be a sermon for Christians, because there’s no such thing as a sermon for Christians.

Now take it easy. I know there are Christians in my church. I know that preaching is a means of grace for disciplining Christians. I know that sermons are meant to feed the sheep, exhort and encourage and mature those who know Christ.

The text and topic weren’t limiting the target audience to Christians; I was.

While writing a sermon for Christians is hard work, writing a sermon for someone who lacks a Christian background, vocab, and worldview is even harder. It simply takes more work, more thought, more creativity to translate the sermon from basic-Christian-speak to average-Canadian-sceptic-speak.

Think of the advantages of putting in this extra effort:

  1. As you preach in this fashion, you’re not only preaching to both Christians and non-Christian, but you are training your people how to think and translate the Bible into their workplaces and neighbourhoods.
  2. You’re keeping the gospel fire ever-lit. You won’t take a Sunday off where the gospel of grace isn’t preached and enjoyed from the pulpit. There’s no text or topic, not matter how Christianish (at first glance) that won’t exalt a resurrected Saviour who for love takes the place of his people and gives them new life in the Spirit.

Pastors and preachers, keep it up. Work and start working harder. There’s no such thing as a sermon for Christians.

The Family Man’s Bookham Pattern

C.S. Lewis was the first Christian author I read. I don’t know how I got his Mere Christianity, but when I became a Christian as a high school senior, I read it with interest. I went on to read just about everything he had written. My faith has had a Lewis-shape since.

Sorry; I couldn’t find a free photo of C.S.

In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised By Joy, Lewis describes when he was around sixteen years old and lived and studied in Great Bookham. He developed a habit of life and study that he called the “Bookham Pattern.” This routine served as the archetype for a “normal day” for the rest of his life: “For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there.”

Here is his original:

0800 Breakfast 1 hour
0900 Reading or writing at desk 2 hours
1100 Tea ½ hour
1130 Return to desk 1 ½ hours
1300 Lunch 1 hour
1400 Walk in the countryside 2 ¼ hours
1615 Tea ¾ hour
1700 Return to desk 2 hours
1900 Evening meal, talk, lighter reading 4 hours
2300 In bed 9 hours

He had some caveats. He typically took his afternoon walks alone, because if he took a friend, they would end up talking, and while walking and talking are both great, “it is a mistake to combine them.” Eating and reading, however, are happily combined. Not any book will do though. “It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table.” The table is also not for study, but for “a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere.”

Now, let’s all admit this: Lewis was not a normal guy (even at sixteen). He had a ridiculous intellect, a rip-snorting wit, and was, for most of his life, a bachelor.

Now for me to have a regular Bookham day, as a husband and father of four, I would likely be disqualified from the ministry for neglecting family and work. What father can wake up at 8am? What employer will let you fit in a 2 ¼ hour stroll in the middle of every work day?

So, I did some tinkering and trialing. And here it is, The Family Man’s Bookham Pattern (FMBP), for your use and enjoyment:

0615 Breakfast with kids, dress, tidy up 1 ¾ hours
0800 Bible reading and prayer with coffee 1 hour
0900 Reading or writing at desk 2 ½ hours
1130 Lunch ½ hour
1200 Return to desk 2 hours
1400 Walk in the city, coffee, prayer and reflection 1 hour
1500 Return to desk 2 hours
1700 Evening meal, shouting, insane flurry to get kids ready for bed 1 ¼ hours
1815 Worship with family (sing, read, and pray) ¼ hour
1830 Read Lord of the Rings with older kids 1/3 to ½ hour
1900 Exercise, date night, lighter reading, odds and ends 3 ¼ hours
2215 In bed 8 hours

The FMBP can be used when you’re in school, if you’ve got a desk-heavy job, or if you work from home. Odds are, with meetings and emails and appointments, you’ll rarely follow the FMBP with absolute purity. But that’s okay. I’ve found that even a thirty minute walk has helped some of my thickest sermon tangles unknot.

So have at it, and let me know what you think.