How to Preach Less than Christian – Part 1

microphoneflat2Christian preaching is easily recognisable – you need a preacher with a Bible in a church.  But what about less than Christian preaching?  Can you have a preacher with a Bible in a church, but actually have something less than, something sub-gospel?  Absolutely.  Here are some warning signs:

1. Fail to identify the “God” being referenced.

In the West we have grown complacent with the term “god.”  Perhaps due to a strong Christian heritage, or perhaps due to a lack of awareness of our Bibles, we can easily fall into an assumption that people know who we mean when we use the term.  Consequently there is a generic set of truths that are assumed to be true about God before the biblical content is added on top for a fuller, richer presentation.  This is nothing new, it has been happening for centuries at the highest level of theological scholarship as well as in the pulpit.

But in the Bible, which God is being referenced tends to be carefully clarified.  Elijah was not satisfied that the false prophets on Mt Carmel also believed in a single powerful god figure.  Paul on Mars Hill was not prepared to start from where the philosopher-theologians had already arrived in their conceptions of a single divine being.

Perhaps one of the following should be underlined when referencing God in preaching:

A. The Person(s) of the Trinity.  Perhaps it is appropriate to clarify who is being referenced in the passage.  For instance, in the New Testament, the label “God” typically will refer to God the Father, although there are places where the whole Trinity is in view, or even God the Son.  Why not be sure to identify the persons of the Trinity in order to help clarify that the text is speaking of the Father-Son-Spirit God rather than some sort of generic OmniBeing (as I’ve heard Glen Scrivener label this alternative approach).

B. The Character of God.  Another way to identify and distinguish the true God from all false gods is to make reference to His character.  This was Paul’s approach when preaching to pagans in Lystra and pagan-philosophers in Athens – he described God’s character as the life-giving, generous, patient, kind God who providentially works in circumstance and in the sending of His Son so that people will seek for Him and find Him as they turn from the worthless fashioning of gods in their own image (and this invitation has a terminus).  Within the context of the passage being preached, there will be something that can be offered to distinguish the God who is revealed there from the gods who need little revelation since we come up with them without any trouble on our own!

Next time we’ll pursue another less than Christian approach to preaching.

Preaching to the Whole Person and the Whole Congregation

In his chapter entitled “Powerful Preaching,” in The Preacher and Preaching, Geoff Thomas writes:

“One of the great perils that face preachers…is the problem of hyper-intellectualism, that is, the constant danger of lapsing into a purely cerebral form of proclamation, which falls exclusively upon the intellect.  Men become obsessed with doctrine and end up as brain-oriented preachers.  There is consequently a fearful impoverishment in their hearers emotionally, devotionally, and practically.  Such pastors are men of books and not men of people; they know the doctrines, but they know nothing of the emotional side of religion.  They set little store upon experience or upon constant fellowship and interaction with almighty God.  It is one thing to explain the truth of Christianity to men and women; it is another thing to feel the overwhelming power of the sheer loveliness and enthrallment of Jesus Christ and to communicate that dynamically to the whole person who listens so that there is a change of such dimensions that he loves Him with all his heart and soul and mind and strength.”

Not only do we need to address the whole person before us, but also all the persons before us.  Ramesh Richard lists three attitudes that will be listening during a message:

1. The I Don’t Cares! These are not hostile, they just don’t feel they should be there. They are there out of a sense of duty to friends or family, or habitual routine. For this attitude the need raised at the beginning of the message is critical. Without it, they are free to continue their inner stance of not caring.

2. The I Don’t Knows! They lack the background awareness that others may have regarding God, the Bible, Christianity and church life. These people need good biblical content clearly explained.

3. The I Don’t Believes! These people are doubtful about the truth of what is said, or the applicability of it to real life. They are likely to test what is said with questions such as, “Is this truth coherent?” or “Is the sermon consistent?” or “Is this truth practical?” and especially, “Will this work?” For this attitude you must demonstrate a coherent consistency as well as practical relevance.

Before preaching it is worth prayerfully considering whether the sermon is merely cerebral or emotional, and whether it will engage these three attitudes.  Is a clear and valuable need raised? Is there sufficient accessible explanation? Is the message relevant and life engaging? We preach not to get our study into the public domain, but to see the lives, the hearts, the attitudes of our listeners changed by exposure to God’s Word.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to NewsvineLike This!