I 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?
A 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.