This week I’ve been pondering the factors involved in preaching profoundly. That is, how do we pursue the kind of substantially transformative messages that are fitting for Christian pulpit ministry. I suspect we’ve barely scratched the surface. I’d like to add one more thought today.
Yesterday I enjoyed lunch with a good friend and we were talking about preaching among other things. We were thinking about how preaching can be part of how we define ourselves as a movement – for instance, in the past it might have been in reaction to Catholic theology, or more recently in reaction to Liberal theology. Consequently our preaching can carry a subtle desire to demonstrate that we take the Bible seriously. But then a mis-step can occur.
In our attempt to demonstrate a commitment to the Bible, we can create sermons that are actually an artificial structure placed on the passage. That is, we seek to show our approach to the Bible and end up transmitting our own cleverness in serious sermon construction. The Bible can almost become an exhibit for our trustworthy theology, or for our view of the Bible. There is a danger in this.
The danger is that we preach our own message from a passage, rather than preaching the message of the passage.
I am convinced that life-changingly profound preaching is not about a deep trust in a specific sermonic form, or even in conveying our system of theology, but rather in a profound trust in the Word of God. When we do everything we can to present the text God has given us, to re-present it to our listeners so that our message not only says what the text says, but does what the text was intended to do, then I think we are getting closer to profound preaching.
Its a good question to ask ourselves before we preach tomorrow: am I trusting in my system of theology, in the sermonic form I believe reflects “true preaching,” or even in the compelling illustrative material I’ve come up with? Or am I really trusting in the biblical passage to work deeply in our lives as we ponder the passage together?