Saturday, March 05, 2005

Questions I have heard recently

There are a couple questions I have heard recently that really bother me. These are questions people have either asked about our new pastor or our church in general.

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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If a pastor is not preaching from the Bible he is not preaching, he is giving a pep talk. Jesus didn't preach to "felt needs" he preached the truth. A pastor has an obligation to the church to preach the whole counsel of God not just the "feel good" parts. Any pastor who does not preach the whole truth of Scripture is falling short of his calling as a shepherd of his flock. What better way to make sure you are fulfilling your duty as a pastor than to thoroughly exposite Scripture verse by verse.

Gil Gulick said...

Anonymous,

I respectfully disagree with some of your opinions, and here's why.

My arguement is primarily with the term "Biblical Preaching." One of the most powerful communication tools ever invented is storytelling. Jesus used stories (the "church" word is parable, but the word story accurately describes what they were) in his preaching, so I believe it is entirely appropriate to use non-biblical stories in sermons. Stories make the gospel personal in a way that no other communication method can, in my opinion.

"Jesus didn't preach to "felt needs" he preached the truth." These two things are not mutally exclusive. You can preach Biblical truth to your congregation while also fullfilling their needs. A shepherd who leads his sheep to water when they are in greater need of greener pastures is not a good shepherd. Likewise, a pastor who senses a need in his congregation, but preaches on another topic, is not fullfilling his duty as pastor.

"A pastor has an obligation to the church to preach the whole counsel of God not just the "feel good" parts." I agree with this statement, for the most part. I only have a problem if it is carried to the other extreme and the "feel good" parts are ignored. After all, the great commission in Mark 16:15 reads: "He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." The overall message of the Bible, in my opinion, is one of love and grace. It is the story of a Savior who loved us so much that He was willing to die for us. And through His death, and our acceptance of Him as our savior, we are granted eternal life, even though we don't deserve it (grace.) None of us deserve it, but it is still ours for the asking, and THAT is the GOOD news that this world needs to hear. So, I am not disagreeing with you; I am just clarifying my position.

Thanks for taking the time to write!