Preaching the church

We are referring here to church-related preaching vs preaching the Word and Jesus. Good intent, often good message, even good results, but potentially the wrong focus. Why? The Lord takes care of today, not us! The Lord grows the church, not us. This, or course, flies completely in the face of the current church growth and emerging church frameworks.

What does ‘church-related preaching’ look like? Simply put, it refers to preaching that focuses mostly on congregation building (explicitly or implicitly), and what might be positively spun as congregational support matters. The counter pose to this would be preaching that is focused on Scripture in an interpretation or exegetical sense, or even a focus purely on the Word, centering on Jesus and life in Him alone.

Does this sound unrealistic and impractical in the real world. I hope so, because the Lord has been pretty clearly that worldliness, in all it’s forms, is not the road to church success.

Is this to propose that preaching on people issues and family support matters is bad? Not at all. However, when that becomes the consistent focus from any pulpit, exegesis of the Word of God and concomitant surrender to Jesus can easily fall from the front burner. In that situation, the world’s (remember that the world’s message is Satan’s) message that we can trust ourselves for at least the small matters can seductively make inroads. Once that starts to happen, we have the church inadvertently reinforcing the same messages that we are bombarded with constantly from the world. That is the quintessential slippery slope. Worse, this slippery approach is likely to be quite successful and therefor self-perpetuating.

The fact that it is the Word of God that changes hearts must always be front and center in our hearts and minds. It is not interpretation for living life. It is not application. It is not programs, workshops, seminars, nor fellowship groups. These are all good and have a place, but they are not the active agent in the quickening of the heart. They are not what calls the Saints from the world to the Lord. It is the Word of God that does that. And it is the outworking of Sovereign Grace.

Now, is this proposing the we hear only the Scripture read in Greek or KJV, irrespective of the linguistic abililites of the audience. Definietly not. Though the quickening of the heart is a supernatural occurance, and the understanding of scripture is revelational as well as intellectual, that work is certainly facilitated by simple understanding of the language that is being used. As such, a translation appropriate to the congregation or listener is the jsutifiable choice within reason. Some may ‘prefer’ one translation or another, just as some may have a denominational preference, but that is a tiffle compared to a focus on other than scripture.

Surely it is Jesus alone and Scripture alone that is the key. The Word is the one and only sword of the Lord, cutting the world from the heart of the Saint. So let us support our brother and sisters in the Lord, but always maintain the concentration on the Lord and the Word.


3 thoughts on “Preaching the church

  1. cnaphan

    Interesting thoughts!

    But what about books like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? It would be hard to say that they do not preach a secular type of wisdom: how to live, how a marriage should be, how to spend money, the difference between a wise man and a fool, the unfairness of life, etc… God is mentioned but is not the focus. There is certainly nothing specific to Yahweh or Christ. A Hindu or even an atheist would probably find them relevant.

    And although James says that being friends with the world makes you the enemy of God, he does give much very practical advice for his audience. He even gives advice on how to make newcomers to the church feel welcome. Is James too focused on congregation building?

    Aside from Ephesians and Colossians, which are highly Christocentric yet both still full of practical advice, the writers of the NT did not focus solely on Christ alone or Scripture alone. Aren’t you saying that preachers need to be more spiritual than the authors of the Bible?

    Of course, if they are consistently hearing messages that are more appropriate in Psychology Today, there is a major problem. But I disagree that it has no respectable place in preaching or that it is the first step on a slippery slope.

  2. kwilson

    Hmm, thought that one might stir the pot a bit…

    For the first part of your reply we could head off in the Old/New Convenant discussion direction, or the view on Christ as the effective center of both, but that is not where I was pointing and those are huge discussions in themselves.

    You seem to be getting my point in the second part of your reply. As I said in the post, I am not proposing that practical advice is either bad or non-biblical. It is clearly appropriate as part of the mix. But the key phrase here is ‘as part of’.

    [quote post=”123″]if they are consistently hearing messages that are more appropriate in Psychology Today, there is a major problem.[/quote]

    There ya’ go! But it is not the extreme of Psychology Today (though from what I hear and read that is not uncommon). That would be obvious and easy to ignore. It is less obvious when the focus slowly slides 99% to life skills and church growth. This material can be very interesting and often very popular, making it very seductive in pleasing people. It also, and this is my concern, can quickly and quietly replace the preaching of the Gospel and the Lord as the focus.

    This is happening in many places and is written about widely. My purpose here, other than to make my stand against it, is to challenge anyone reading to evaluate if they are seeing it in their assembly. Is they are, then they will hopefully recognize that there might be a problem.

    As to it being a slippery slope, I think it is a big one. As I said, the practical has a rightful and quite biblical place. However, in the modern church that place has often supplanted both the Lord and the Scripture for all practical purposes. The words may be there, but the focus is not. That, to me, is a very sloppery slope. This is particularly the case when the desire for church growth becomes too much of a focus., which is very common today as financial and program pressures on assemblies grow dramatically.

    What I am saying in essence (to stir the pot even more) is that church growth is unimportant as a church issue, possibly even potentially destructive. It is the Lord’s issue, and he will take care of it in His own time if we concentrate on Him and the Word. What happens today to one degree or another is often exactly the reverse. Maybe I will start a thread around this in the future, but I would just be repeating the work and words of many others.

  3. cnaphan

    [quote comment=”54″]
    What I am saying in essence (to stir the pot even more) is that church growth is unimportant as a church issue, possibly even potentially destructive.[/quote]

    That’s a bold statement but I agree.

    I believe that nowhere in the NT does it mentions the growth of either the local church in question or the universal church. There’s thanksgiving that there’s growth but it’s not a concern. It’s a good point.

    Perhaps it’s because of the weak faith of our church leaders. They want to reassure themselves of their faith so they try to generate miraculous growth to confirm that what they’re doing is approved by God. If they had confidence in their faith, they would not care if their church membership dwindled to only a handful, so long as they had sought only the will of God, right?

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