Torrents of Trite Truths

Little story.  Almost a decade ago I was teaching a class in a Bible college overseas.  I was teaching a wonderful group of enthusiastic church ministers how to handle the New Testament via a survey class.  It was such a delight to share with them in that setting.

One day during the eight-day course, we had the chapel time with all the classes and staff present.  A pastor was visiting from a church that had put a lot of funding into the institution, so naturally the “big church” pastor was invited to preach during chapel.  It was painful.

He wasn’t really preaching a text, so much as preaching platitudes.  Problem was that the enthusiastic students seemed to trigger something in him.  Swept away on the wave of vocal affirmation, the pastor noticeably “rose to the occasion.”  He went off on a wild safari of pithy alliterated lists and trite truths.  Each time he got a vocal response he cranked it up a level.  The room was electric.  I sank lower and lower in my seat, oscillating between anger and momentary depression.

As I left the chapel (time eventually ran out and he had to stop), my young travel companion made a discerning comment about the whole thing.  Unfortunately the students were different.  They processed the difference between what they were learning and what they experienced from the “great preacher” by dividing learning from preaching.

Oh yes, there is a right way to handle the Bible and honour the message that God inspired.  And there is a great way to preach so that listeners are stirred into a frenzy affirming trite truths and pithy epithets.  Disconnect.  One didn’t feed the other.

I feel like I say this regularly in as many ways as I can think of, but let me say it again: please please please preach the text you are preaching.  Anyone (including four year olds) can spurt the truths of the faith learned parrot fashion.  Surely God wants those mature enough to be sensitive to His inspired text to carefully and humbly be fed and feed others from the Word.

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2 thoughts on “Torrents of Trite Truths

  1. I think Haddon calls this use of the text like the National Anthem at a baseball game. It gets everything underway but it is never to be thought of again. I just stumbled upon your site but I really enjoy it. Thanks.

  2. We call this “surface preaching.” It’s more of a pep rally to “ra-ra” everyone who speaks the same religious vernacular! Also the equivalent of drive-thru fast-food…you feel like you ate something, but 20 minutes later you’re regretting it because you either feel guilty for indulging, or you feel like you overpaid and were under-fed!

    BTW – I didn’t feel any of that after reading your blog!

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