You can save a lot of sermon time if you simply summarize the passage, or only briefly touch on the text. It allows you so many more precious minutes for application and relevance. But at what cost? What is lost by eliminating any extended explanation or retelling of narratives? What is the cost to listeners of not really entering into the world of the passage being preached? Here are 3 likely outcomes of Bible-lite preaching:
1. Biblical immaturity. People shaped by Bible-lite preaching will not grow towards the kind of biblical maturity that they will need to thrive in this complex and difficult world. Knowing a few popular proof texts and surface truths liberally mixed with applicational anecdotes and motivational missives will not be enough to weather the storms of life in this world. To be mature believers they need the soul-reinforcement that comes from deep biblical-rootedness.
2. Anemic Devotions. For half an hour on Sunday our people observe a “mature Christian” handling the Bible. They will copy what they see. If you skim the surface in order to share superficial suggestions for life that aren’t deeply rooted in the Word, then guess what they will learn for the rest of the week? Superficial engagement with the Bible on a personal level. In fact, they are more likely to make some good worship music on the way to work their daily devotional content and leave the Bible on the shelf. Why? Because your sermons don’t demonstrate that the Bible has any real weight, personal significance, genuine relevance or divine authority.
3. Godless Christianity. What is Godless Christianity? I don’t know, it is an oxymoron. But I do know, sadly. It is the kind of christian culture that reinforces itself week after week in many churches – the kind of nice and encouraging sub-culture that has a thin veneer of christian labeling attached to a set of behaviours and attitudes like a set of post-its … that is, not very solid under the slightest wind of difficulty or purposeful inspection. Bible-lite preaching may encourage people to try to live out the Christian life, but without drawing them deeper into the source of that life – relationship with the Trinity.
As preachers we have a double-duty, or even a double delight: to enable people to encounter the God of the Bible as they enter into His Word, and to be changed by that encounter. These two go together. But don’t short-change the first by skipping to the second. As the world seems to spin further and further away from the anchors of Biblical truth, people need to be more biblically literate and mature, not less. Today, people need to have more exposure to God’s self-revelation in the Bible, not less.