In a recent article at his website, Rick Howerton (small groups specialist at LifeWay) suggests the proliferation of great preaching in our day may—in some cases—be damaging our discipleship efforts. He observes:
Celebrity preachers are sometimes made into idols. A celebrity preacher is anyone who is dangerously revered by the congregation to which he preaches. A church will know if it has—or has created in members' minds—a celebrity preacher if when speaking of what is taking place at church they talk about their preacher and how great his sermons are rather than speaking of Jesus and what He’s doing in the lives of the people at the church and in their own lives. It’s impossible to grow spiritually if idol worship is taking place.
The preaching event is perceived as the primary time when revelation occurs. God reveals Himself through His Word in various times and places. One of those is during the weekly sermon. These sermons normally last 30 to 45 minutes. However, if someone is going to grow to full spiritual maturity, he or she needs to spend time in God’s Word at least this amount of time on an ongoing, perhaps daily, basis. During these private study times, the Holy Spirit is the Teacher. When a pastor believes his sermon is the primary time when God reveals Himself, he may inadvertently downplay the importance of daily time alone in God’s Word and in so doing keep spiritual babes sucking on the ecclesiastical baby bottle for a lifetime.
Some sermon-based small-group ministries aren’t studying the Bible; they’re discussing the sermon. Learning to study the Bible is a key component to spiritual growth. We learn to process the Bible privately by seeing passages processed during a small group meeting. When a sermon-based Bible study is written, it is almost always conversational. The question is, "Is the group studying/conversing about passages of Scripture, God’s words, or clichés the preacher voiced during the sermon?" The great preachers tend to be the ones who lead their churches to do sermon-based Bible studies. Why? Because people love the sermons and love their pastors; and, due to their love, they enjoy sermon-based Bible studies. Also, in many sermon-based studies, Jesus plays second fiddle to the senior pastor. I once attended a sermon-based Bible study that was flabbergasting. During that conversation, the pastor was praised six times by name; the name of Jesus wasn’t voiced once. (Read the full article.)