One advantage of moving house, as I am next week, is that I get to find my desk from under the piles of accumulated items. So I’ve found a post-it. I remember the conversation, but don’t know who it was with. I don’t think I’ve written this up on the blog yet, but please forgive me if I have!
1. In the past preachers were often respected and influential. An upstanding and significant member of the community, the minister mattered. That has changed in most places. Perhaps an increase in education levels in society has undermined the unique place of the preacher. Perhaps a decrease in the nominal christianity of western culture is to blame. Perhaps preachers have dropped the ball a bit and allowed our influence to fade unnecessarily.
2. Today, many preachers preach as if on a private picnic. We’ve allowed it all to become about the private blessings for those on the inside. We’ve started to fear the encroaching influence of a progressive society, preaching to the converted with a fortress mentality that fails to engage or move outward, but simply to resist the inward press from outside.
I suppose the natural progression would be to urge us to move back into an engaged politically aware and socially influential position, something like the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke to the faithful and the unfaithful, to the insiders and the outsiders, with equal power. But actually, I’m going to stick with my post-it. Perhaps both the suggestion of this paragraph and the one of the next should go side by side…
3. Tomorrow, our preaching must shift to preparing the people in the pew for the coming battle. Our place has shifted. Society has shifted. The church’s role has shifted. The preacher’s role must likewise shift. It is not enough to build a fortress mentality and preach as if we’re on a picnic, somehow safe from encroaching but annoying outside forces. Christians need to be prepared for life in a society that is overtly anti-Christian. Look back ten or twenty years and see how much things have changed. What will it be like a decade or two from now? Will pressures decrease? Will society suddenly decide to accept an exclusive message? Will the language of fanaticism, fundamentalism and terrorism stop being used together? Will persecution remain an issue for other people in other places? Will martyrdom be alien to our personal spheres of friendship? I suspect not. If that is where society is heading in a decade or two, then it must affect how we preach tomorrow, or even today.