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Posts Tagged ‘Preaching’

There is an argument that goes something like this:

There are two reasons why this kind of speaking in the church is so crucial. One is that the subject matter is infinitely important. There is no other organization on earth that deals in matters of eternal life and eternal death—matters about God and his Son and his Spirit, matters about salvation and judgment, matters about the life that pleases God or displeases him. In other words, no other group of people, besides the church, gathers regularly to deal in such tremendously important realities. This means that there is a form of speech that is fitting as part of that gathering that fits the greatness of that truth—namely, preaching. So the first reason for preaching is that the nature of the truth calls for something more than mere explanation or discussion or conversation.

Today I want to tell you that I am not convinced of such a method and I will give you 3 reasons why.

1. Though many like to make the argument otherwise, the fact is that when we see preaching in the bible we have taken what we now do, and what the Reformers esteemed and have read it back into the text. As I read the Epistles the word or some form of the verb didaskō  is used much more frequently than the word  kēryssō and Timothy is told only once as far as I can tell to “preach” and to add to that kerysso is used the majority of time with proclaiming the Gospel and that 90% of the time to the lost. Thus we see the command to teach in the local fellowship.

The problem lies in this question. Is teaching to be a proclamation style (pulpit ministry) or a more sit down or conversation or dialogue of some type? I think the latter. Given the local of where the church met. When Paul went into the public he preached, when he was with the Church meeting in homes he taught. It is funny that Paul never ever gives the qualification of elders to “preach” (proclamation)  but they should be able to teach (instruct). So my first reason is that it makes no sense from a biblical perspective to “preach” expositorly, though you should always “teach” expositorily. This means that the grammar, original audience, historical context and all should be carefully considered before we say what a specific passage means.

2. The next two reasons are a bit more pragmatic. The number two reason is that interactive teaching is always the best method of teaching especially new information. Being able to ask questions, get clarification, and even engage critically seems to be the way people learn best. How do I know if you are learning the information? Because I am so good at delivering it? This seems to be the position of many who preach in such a way. What it sounds like to me is that they are saying “hey I did a good job expositing the text, now apply it to your life”. There seems to be a huge disconnect. The first being how do you know I understand, the second being  do you care if I disagree.

I am not promoting an arguement but a chance to engage the speaker. And if the speaker is preaching publicly he should answer publicly. If everybody already knows and don’t need clarification then maybe we should be teaching something different. For the life of me I can’t figure out why this happens. There are only two reasons. 1. A speaker is overconfident in his skillset or 2. A speaker is overconfident in his method. I guess a third option is that the speaker doesn’t care if you get it or not, they are going to deliver it.

However, when those listening to the message have a chance to ask questions and get points of clarification it can be quite rewarding. Everyone that I know, that has such opportunities are always excited that they are given opportunities to learn more and clear up any confusion that they have had. It is funny that when the person who is learning “expository” preaching is in school and at conferences they have questions and can interact with the professors and even be critiqued by classmates and professors but come to church and shut the very opportunity they had off to others. As one of my sons cartoons say “this is quite mysterious”.

3. The final reason is that people come because they want to learn and even share what they are learning. Not to mention sharing in the local congregation should be more than greeting at the door or helping people find places to park or giving, or ushering, or stacking chairs and operating the powerpoint or sound booth. Why do we encourage people to participate in the cosmetics of the gathering but not the purpose of it. If the purpose is the ministry of the word and we have built up such anticipation for it, shouldn’t we want people to participate in the most important part of “church”? But it seems that we eagerly and dogmatically exclude people from it! You can do everything else except participate in the word. For the life of me I can’t figure out why.

However, what greater way to know as a “pastor” what people are learning? If you allow them to share in the teaching and ministry of the word, you can find out quite quickly if they are really learing  how to faithfully handle the word. You can see if they are applying a proper interpretive method right? Not only that since “preaching” contains both the information and the application,  what better way to know if the word is being applied than allowing people to share what the word is doing in their lives and how it is transforming them to the image of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Something like Philippians 2, when Paul is saying have the mind of Christ which has all to do with self-sacrifice and being others-focused, wouldn’t it be sweet for someone to stand up and tell the family of God how the Spirit applied it to their heart? But nope, “pastors” have spent the last week preparing for the grand show, the great solo that follows the rest of the theatrics. We might as well start a drum roll when pastors walk onto the stage I can hear it now “coming to the stage….”, then the big blue spotlight comes on while the rest of the place dims!

I close with an appeal. I know we have been taught by many great theologians that the word is the center of the meeting. That if we don’t preach expositorly the church will fail to worship God and start to dive into liberalism. I know the pulpit has a high place (almost idolatry) in the church today and the reason why people don’t want expository sermons is because they are weak, or don’t want to be changed by the word or some other foolish statement that comes.  But that is a lie. I know many brothers and sisters who have been doing this for years and they have a community like no other who are image bearers of Christ and have deep love for God and His word.  Finally teaching is one of the functions of elders, never preaching. You can’t find one place in scripture where “preaching” was the primary reason for the church to gather. All types of teaching occurred however, through song (Col 3) through prayers (Ephesians) through the public reading of the word (Timothy) and so forth. The Greatest Show On Earth method of “expository preaching” doesn’t really make the cut, when I study the scriptures, especially the epistles, there are many proof texts with all type of traditional meanings read into them coming out of Timothy (and Timothy only) but again it fails to stand under the light of scrutiny.

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Okay I am over half-way through the book. It started a little rough for me, given the fact that I am not covenantal though some of my favorite teachers are, including Ken Jones. I want to tell you that Mr. Carter’s chapters on preaching and worship are worth the price of the book alone. I am going to give a few quotes. Please pick this work up. There are things that I will disagree with but I will leave that for the final review which is to happen this weekend. God willing! Also please check out the Council of Reforming Churches also. You can get information on the authors of this book and other Reformed and Biblically Sound African American Pastors and the work they are doing to spread the Supremacy of Christ to the entire world.

“Christians in too many of our churches today are far more interested in being served rather than serving. When they go to church, they are more interested in what they get than what they give. They are more concerned with being entertained than being edified. Subsequently, the sad state of affairs is that more often than not entertainment has replaced worship. yet we need to under that worship is not entertainment” (Carter pg. 83)

“Thus when we come to church, we want what we so readily receive all week long–fast-paced, up-to-the-minute, quality, graphic entertainment. Unfortunately, too many places on Sunday morning are eager (emphasis mine) to give people what they want in an effort to reach them, or more accurately, to woo them in to membership” (Carter pg 86)

On preaching he says:

“Biblical, experiential preaching begins with a commitment to the Bible as the Word of God. The preacher who would have any long term creditability will be the preacher who consistently demonstrates that the Bible is the source of divine revelation and information. It is the place where he derives his authority and the place where his authority is checked” (Carter page 65)

On preaching the 5 Solas he says this of preaching Grace (which gave me goose bumps)

“We belittle grace and deny our people the best when we offer them financial security, self-esteem, positive-thinking, and even family values instead of the all-satisfying grace of God. Money will not satisfy when the doctors want to pull the plug on the life-support systems. People need Grace. Positive thinking will not satisfy when a child drops out of school and joins a cult. People need Grace. Family values won’t satisfy when she files for divorce papers because she wants no part of the faith. People need Grace”. (Carter pg. 75)

This is just a teaser. The book is jam packed with this type of Christ exalting information. The book is written by some pretty heavy reformed guys so some of the stuff you may not agree with, but the quotes above over populates the pages. I will provide a review by the weekend.

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