The first question is this: "Does your preacher preach from the Bible?" A professor at one of the seminaries I went to even told me that he was the best teacher if I wanted to learn Biblical preaching. A deacon at our church once complained in a meeting that our former pastor didn't hold a Bible while he was preaching.
From my understanding, what these people want is for the pastor to pick a passage of scripture and go through it verse by verse during the sermon. In contrast, my past few pastors typically start their sermon by reading the scripture, and then refer to it later in the sermon. In a recent article on Baptist Press, the "news" service of the Southern Baptist Convention, Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote the following:
The current debate over preaching is most commonly explained as an argument about the focus and shape of the sermon. Should the preacher seek to preach a biblical text through an expository sermon? Or, should the preacher direct the sermon to the "felt needs" and perceived concerns of the hearers?My question is: why are those things mutually exclusive? In my opinion, the preacher is doing his job if he is preaching a biblical text that meets the needs and concerns of his congregation. Can you imagine if you had gone into church on the Sunday following 9/11 and heard a sermon on stewardship? All of us went to church that Sunday with the need to hear a sermon that told us that God was still in control, not the next sermon in a series on the book of Mark.
I think we can take a lesson from the greatest preacher in history, Jesus. Most of his sermons were in the form of stories (parables) that the people could easily understand and relate to. He often referred to scripture, but I would not say it was the focus of his message. The stories also showed people how they could apply his teachings to their lives, and I believe that knowing what the Bible says is not enough; we also need to know how to apply that knowledge to our everyday lives.
I don't want you to think that I am saying that it is wrong to use a Bible during a sermon, because that is not my intention. I have just heard and read so many people saying that pastors (many of which I know) are not preaching from the Bible, and that is simply not true. I think what is needed in preaching, like in many other areas of life, is a balance. The Bible is our window to the character of God, and his will for our lives. But, I do not believe it is the only way God speaks to us. We should use the Bible AND all of the other knowledge and techniques that God has gifted us with to reach a lost world. If we do less than that, we are not being fully faithful to the command Jesus gave us in the great commission.
I will discuss the second question in my next post.