Overqualified! Go, Stay.

Ok, I can’t help throwing this one into the mix.  How often do we drain the impact of a text by immediate overqualification?  For example, in the area of response to the great commission.

God is a missionary God.  What if the Son had responded to the Father as many preachers respond to texts that assume and expect missionary momentum from lives transformed by the gospel?  What if the Son had insisted that He could be a missionary-messiah right there, in heaven?  What if the Son had pulled out Acts 1:8 and spoken of the need to minister in “His Jerusalem” first?  This does seem bizarre.

But I have to say that as a speaker sometimes asked to preach on “missionary” type texts and at “missions” events, it can get frustrating to see others overqualify and undercut the thrust of a message.  Let’s say I preach a text and in the preaching suggest that it would be a natural response for some of us to respond by seeking to take the message of God’s love to other cultures and lands.  What happens?  The service leader or worship leader then stands up and thanks me for my message, then prays about how “we can all be missionaries right here in our own neighbourhood!”

That’s nice, very inclusive, now everyone can feel involved.  Or, to put it another way, now the potential impact of the message is dissipated and any self-focused listeners can remain comfortably, well, comfortable.

I’ve heard preachers do it too.  They preach on the giving and going and sacrificing nature of God.  Then they preach a passage where the followers of Christ are urged to give and go and sacrifice.  Then they immediately qualify so that all can feel included, and none need feel too stirred.

“Go isn’t an imperative in Matthew 28, it is just ‘as you are going’ – that is, wherever you find yourself.”  (Uh, maybe…or perhaps more accurately, go isn’t in itself an imperative verb, but as an attendant circumstance participle it does carry the force of the verb it goes with – in this case an imperatival force.  Ok, don’t quote the Greek grammar, but be right if you’re going to use Greek to support your explanation.  Jesus is assuming and urging a “go” in this passage!)

“Remember that Acts 1:8 starts with Jerusalem, that’s where we have to start!”  (Uh, ok, but the momentum in that verse is leaning towards the ends of the earth, and if you keep reading you’ll see how God used persecution to get them moving!)

I could go on, but my point applies in lots of areas.  We have a tendency to read one thing, then by unthinking qualification end up preaching something else.  We do it with grace, we do it with Trinity, we do it with missions passages.  Any others you’d add?

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2 thoughts on “Overqualified! Go, Stay.

  1. I think that there is a tendency to do this when we know that another passage teaches what might seem the other side of the coin, so to speak. This might be true if we have those in our congregations who want to balance what is found in the particular passage with what may be found in another passage of scripture. We might feel that we need to over qualify a passage so that the people who are hearing our message will know that we know that other passages address another angle of the topic. Then the message become a bit of a systematic study (which is not all bad) but it seems to me that systematics can blunt the sharp edge of a passage. Depending upon our understanding of “expository preaching” and who we have listened to who claim to be expositors, we might think that doing systematic theology in every passage is the way it is supposed to be done. I think that a better way to approach the scriptures is to discover the theology in the passage which is driving the point and preaching the passage we are in rather than running to another passage that we are not preaching. This allows the weight and context of the scriptures to cut through to the heart of the hearers.

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