Watch the Whiplash

I have been writing about how preaching is the communication of the revelation of a Person or three. It isn’t something less than that. When the preacher steps up following a time of worship and  communicates only some sort of code for living, or peer pressure, or socialization program, then there is a whiplash effect that is felt by listeners. Let me probe that a little:

1. Whiplash from the worship tone to the message tone. This is common. The worship time focused in on the amazing grace and wonderful person of Christ. Then the preacher gets up and changes the tone completely. This can happen as the reflective, focused and prepared listeners suddenly get hit with an insensitive introductory joke. It can happen with a shift from the worship emphasis on being pleased by Christ to the message tone of pressure in the name of Christ.

2. Whiplash from the worship focus to the message focus. This is similar. The worship time typically will focus hearts and minds toward heaven, fixing the gaze on God in Christ. Then the message too easily shifts that focus in one of three ways. Either it can be the heart-jerking whiplash of focusing on how bad society is, or it can throw us toward focusing on the preacher (with his attention seeking behaviour, or his showing off, or whatever), or it can suddenly shift the gaze onto the navels of the faithful – you got saved by God’s grace, but now let me help you understand the burden you live under!

3. Whiplash from worship content to the message content. Okay, this is slightly repetitive, but unashamedly so. I am not hankering after a three point outline. I am trying hard to hammer the point that our hearts shouldn’t suffer whiplash when the Word is preached. We tend to sing of how wonderful God is, his grace, our love response to His, our hearts captivated, our lives stirred. Then the preaching can so easily swing over to how we must try harder to be better, be good, be disciplined, etc.

This kind of whiplash will always be present when preaching doesn’t preach the Person, but offers a program, a pressure, a commentary on societal ills, etc.

3 thoughts on “Watch the Whiplash

  1. Helpful as always, but I need to avoid ‘whiplash in reverse!’ because I think it happens the other way round too…I.e. The worship time can be very ‘me’ centred and the preacher changes the tone, focus and content to Christ…oh for worship, preaching, whole services and whole lives centred on Christ!

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