The Sunday Sermon Is Not a TED Talk

By Dr. Josh Buice

We live in a world full of ideas. With the highway of information technology, we can access information at any given moment of any given day from most places in the world using something as small as a smart phone device. With all of this information, curious minds are being filled on a constant basis with both simple and complex ideas that are being delivered at light speed—often with conflicting world views and philosophies.

The TED Talk has become a very popular information bank—owned by a nonprofit nonpartisan foundation designed to deliver information to people. According to TED, information is built upon the most important thing in the world—ideas. So, how is preaching a sermon different than delivering a TED Talk? TED Talks are approximately 18 minutes in length while sermons are often longer. It’s more than the length of the talk that distinguishes a Christian sermon from a TED Talk.

Preaching a Sermon Involves More Than Delivering Creative Ideas by Gifted Thinkers

Giving a TED Talk may not follow a specific cookie cutter pattern, but it does center on the goal of delivering ideas. Often TED Talks center on the opinions of people and charged by emotions. Such opinions are delivered with clarity, precision and a bit of persuasion in order to change people’s understanding of that particular idea at the center of the talk. According to Chris Anderson, “Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.”

While ideas are certainly powerful, we must understand that preaching a sermon is different than merely delivering ideas to an audience. Preaching involves delivering truth (Rom. 1:16John 17:17). The source of the truth is God’s Word, and preaching is the delivery of God’s truth rather than ideas that originated with the one giving the talk (or another figure from history). The goal of the sermon is to unpack a given text of Scripture and deliver God’s truth to the gathered audience—which in most cases consists of the assembled church.

According to the TED website, they search hard to find the most gifted speakers for their events:

At TED, we search year-round for presenters who will inform and inspire, surprise and delight. Our presenters run the world’s most admired companies and design its best-loved products; they invent world-changing devices and create ground-breaking media. They are trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses.

The reality is, most pastors do not meet those standards. God has often chosen those who are not wise and genius level to deliver the truth of the gospel. Paul wrote the following to the church at Corinth:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).

The sermon isn’t a carefully crafted talk emerging from the expertise of the speaker. The sermon is a carefully crafted talk that should emerge from God’s Word and has one main goal of delivering the truth of the passage of Scripture to people with great care and precision. Because sermons are truth centered and not idea centered—sermons are driving at something much bigger which is the worship of God.

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Source: Church Leaders