In Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley shares his heart, his journey and his strategy for creating churches that unchurched people love to attend. As part of that, he gives seven guidelines for preaching to the unchurched. Whether we embrace the whole model of church and approach to the Great Commission that Andy Stanley advocates, the reality of preaching to unchurched folks is one that all of us should be aware of (unless, of course, the unchurched will never come to your church, or be brought to your church).
Guideline 6: Acknowledge the odd . . . it would be odd not to.
Church folks like us have heard the odd bits so many times that it is normal fare in our biblical diet, but people unfamiliar with the Bible and its contents will find things odd. Floating axheads, animals showing up at the ark in pairs, parting of the sea, etc. Andy Stanley suggests that breezing past the odd content and heading straight for principles and applications will hinder those who aren’t used to such notions. Instead, pause and acknowledge how strange it sounds.
For a start, to acknowledge the odd is to increase our credibility with those who are naturally skeptical. They may already think we have left our brains in the cloakroom, we don’t need to reinforce such notions. Furthermore, they need to know that it is okay to read the Bible critically. In fact, it is okay to read it before believing it. People will do well to question the supernatural aspects of biblical teaching rather than just swallowing something they still assume to be untrue.
Instead of skirting over or around these issues, take the time to offer a brief rationale for believing what is in the passage. Stanley suggests that this will accomplish three things. 1. It points unbelievers to the real issue (typically the specific incident recorded is just a specific incident, but reinforcing the resurrection of Christ as an access point to the rest of the miraculous gets to the heart of the gospel revelation). 2. This will reinforce the faith of believers. And 3. It gives believers a mini-apologetics seminar to help them with communicating to their colleagues and friends on such matters.
The list will be finished next time. . .