Cut the jokes, churchgoers tell Christian preachers, as finalists gear up for 'Sermon of the Year' award

Siku, a finalist in the new Sermon of the Year competition

A ground-breaking Christian artist and theologian who preaches sermons while painting pictures is one of the finalists in the new Sermon of the Year competition.

Siku, a musician and one of Britain's leading comic book creators and concept artists who is a pioneer in creating interactive media on the life of Christ, will take part in a live preach-off against three other finalists later this month.

The final of the award, to be held on the last day of the Christian Resources Exhibition at the ExCel in London next week, was announced as exhibition organisers released results of a survey on sermons that showed preachers would be well-advised to cut the jokes.

The survey of 1,800 churchgoers by Christian Research found that, though the sermon is still a popular part of Sunday, those listening in the pews believe that preachers do less comedy and more serious content.

Organisers were surprised to find out how much churchgoers still love listening to sermons.

Nearly nine in ten of those sitting in the pews on Sunday disagree or strongly disagree that the idea of a sermon being preached in church each week is outdated.

Nearly half of all sermons lasted between between 10 and 20 minutes with just 15 per cent going on longer than 30 minutes. 

The survey found that congregations dislike personal anecdotes and jokes.

Men in particular want to hear biblical exposition while women are slightly more keen on practical application.

Nearly eight in ten had no preference for male or female preachers although more people in Scotland and Wales preferred men in the pulpit over women.

The survey found few young people are given the chance to preach, but there were more opportunities for young preachers in London.

The four Sermon of the Year 2016 finalists

The results were released along with full details of the final of the Sermon of the Year award.

Phil Hutch, bottom left in the picture, is Youth Mayor of Derby. Aged 17 and studying for his A levels, he initiated an evangelistic week of outreach with the Message Trust across schools in Derby.

Also in the under 21 category is Jess Mackin, top left. Aged 16 and studying A levels in Physics, Further Maths and Computing, she entered because she was intrigued by the idea of a reason for hope - the theme of the competition.

They will both record their sermons on video because they are studying on the day of the competition.

Finalists in the 21 and over category, Natalie Collins, bottom right, and Siku, will preach to a panel and a live audience on Friday next week at the ExCel.

Natalie Collins is a gender justice specialist. She runs Spark, a consultancy to enable individuals and organisations prevent and respond to male violence against women. She is also director of the DAY Programme, a youth domestic abuse education programme and is a founding member of the Christian Feminist Network collective.

Sermon of the Year has been launched by the London School of Theology and Preach Magazine. Along with the top four, several runners-up will have their sermons printed in a book, Reason for Hope: The Top 10 Sermons from Sermon of the Year 2016, available from from May and free to those attending the finals at CRE.