What is the Difference Between a Speech and a Sermon?

PulpitI was asked today on Facebook about the difference between a speech and a sermon. I thought that was a good question and so I have decided to look more closely at it.

What is a speech? According to one online dictionary, a speech (at least in the relevant context) is:

A formal address or discourse delivered to an audience:
‘he gave a speech about the company’

According to this definition, a sermon is a speech as it is an address or discourse delivered to an audience.

That same dictionary gives this definition of a sermon:

A talk on a religious or moral subject, especially one given during a church service and based on a passage from the Bible:
‘I preached my first sermon on original sin’

So is a sermon just a speech on a religious topic?

I have taught the New Testament for a number of years at a couple of schools. In those classes, I spoke on the Bible to a Christian audience. Was it preaching? While there were times when I would slip into preaching, in general it was not preaching. The difference was not just that it was not taking place in a church service.

What do I see as being different between a sermon and a speech on a religious or biblical topic?

BibleA sermon has an authority that a normal speech does not have. I need to make it clear that the authority does not come from the position of the pastor. The authority comes from the passage of Scripture that is being preached on. A sermon should not be a motivational speech with a little illustration from the Bible. A sermon should be an expounding of Scripture and it should be authoritative because it is so thoroughly biblical.

A sermon should not be a motivational speech with a little illustration from the Bible. Click To Tweet

The other difference is that a speech often passes on information, while a sermon seeks transformation. I must make it clear that I’m a teacher by nature, and so my sermons do pass on information. But I’m always asking myself the “So what?” question. What is it that I want my congregation to do with what they hear from Scripture? There must be a clear application.

So a sermon is a speech. But it is a special kind of speech. A sermon is an authoritative expounding of Scripture that seeks to transform the audience with a biblical challenge.

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2 thoughts on “What is the Difference Between a Speech and a Sermon?”

  1. Alistair Begg, referring to a Scottish pastor of yesteryear, answered this question as such; a sermon is a personal, passionate, plea.

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