I enjoyed a conversation with a church planter recently. He made a comment that I’m hearing more and more. There is a trend, not new, but seemingly on an upswing, toward distant preaching. That is, preaching that is safely removed from any hint of emotional appeal or accusations of manipulation. It is a manner that reveres the intellectual, but makes little or no attempt to touch the heart. It is cold, distant, removed, disaffected.
Somehow proponents seem to think that this kind of preaching leaves room for the Holy Spirit to work out the impact in listeners’ lives. It protects the speaker from accusation of manipulation. It keeps the main thing the main thing and allows the truth to stand unsullied by any emotional appeal.
On the other hand, perhaps it abdicates the preacher’s responsibility to fully engage either the text or the listener. Perhaps it provides for a prideful presentation of knowledge. Perhaps it protects the preacher from any responsibility when listeners do not respond, since that, of course, is the Spirit’s concern, not theirs.
I find it concerning that this kind of preaching is coming up more and more in conversation. It is a sort of expository preaching corrupted. Expository preaching is not simply about presenting the truth. It is about presenting the truth of the Scripture in an effective communication manner that emphasizes the relevance to the contemporary situation of listener and seeks response. Every element of the preaching preparation and presentation should lean fully into God’s work by His Spirit, but that offers no excuse for abdication on the part of the preacher.
Am I faithfully representing the text when I neuter it and remove all affective appeal? Am I really showing pastoral care for the flock when I turn the multi-dimensional appeal of Scripture into an intellectual exercise? Am I really honouring God when I act as if I, as His representative, am doing my job by simply informing? Am I really avoiding manipulation when I give the impression that Christianity is primarily about the commodity of knowledge and I am the dispenser of it?
There’s more to say, but I don’t want to lose the focus on that last sentence . . .