Monday, March 14, 2005

A response to a comment on "Biblical Preaching"

The following comment was posted for my article on "Biblical Preaching." I know several people are following the Blog via e-mail now, and wouldn't get to see this post otherwise, so I am posting it here.

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.

I posted the following reply:

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!

I forgot to put in my reply that my problem with the term "Biblical Preaching" is that I have heard it used to criticize anyone who does preach a sermon by going through a passage verse by verse. I firmly believe it is possible to preach a sermon that is "Biblical" using other methods of communication. I heard a great sermon this past Sunday that was based on 2 verses. The pastor read the verses, and then expounded on them for the rest of his sermon. Although his use of Biblical text was limited, the teaching in his sermon was, in my opinion, Biblical.


Abe said...

I would like to weigh in on this discussion if I may with all due respect to the author of the blog whom I respect greatly.
I would agree mostly on what the anonymous writer says but it lacks complete explanation. So I will try to help fill in around the edges.
Proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered. (2 Tim 2;4)
I will say that a parable is not in anyway a story, such as a fable or made up thought or telling a recollection of an event. The correct definition of a parable is “the constant use of a word, meaning resemblance both in Hebrew & Greek, makes it evident that an essential feature of the parable lay in the bringing together of two different things so that one helped to explain the other”. Christ used different ways of illustrating to get his point across. Now there are two things in the Greek, two words, one is parable, “parabolos” and the other is paroimia. They are both figures of speech. Both are brining out essential doctrinal truth.
Now in every case, whether it's a parable or a paroimia, it always had a two-fold conceal and to reveal. While it was dark to somebody, it was light to somebody else. And so when Jesus taught in parables, the people who were blind did not understand, the people who saw did understand. ( Mark 4: 10-12 ) the Holy Spirit is the helper to this.
So why do I bring this up, well there is distinct difference in Pastors in churches today telling stories or life experiences, which is not wrong to some degree but must not be measured to Christ’s divine parables that brought truth to the faithful and judgment to those who didn’t understand. Most pastors today are shirking their responsibilities of properly exegeting the text by filling their time with inspirational philosophy and human psychology to make the audience feel good about themselves. This should not be the focus of the preacher. The focus should be put on God’s majesty and wonder, God allows us to exist purely to Glorify Him for His own pleasure with His Love and grace. Not our own personal feelings. I ask this, did the Apostle Paul concern himself with his own self-esteem. (He must increase and I must decrease)
Today’s market driven church appeals to people with motivational speaking, entertainment and shallow politically correct teaching. Pastors/ entrepreneur’s lack of commitment to the text and self-serving agenda’s are selling the gospel at a price far more destructive than monetary value. Think about it this way, what would happen to the market driven churches of today if America as a country were to fall into severe physical persecution? How many would flee the pews?
As far as the Great commission found in Matthew 28 states this “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Mark 15 say this “And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”.
The good news is pick up your cross and follow Christ, that’s a command of obedience not a choice. This might not make you feel good when you count the cost. This is asking you to walk away from your life as you knew it.
The overall message of the Bible, is one of God’s sovereignty along with love and grace. It is the Truth of a Savior who loved us so much that He was willing to die for us. And through His death on the cross and resurrection to glory, we were granted salvation to Him as our LORD and Savior. Because of this we are promised eternal life, even though we don't deserve it (grace.) None of us deserve it.
Ask yourself this question, why would you think that Christ just might be good enough for us “sinful man” to make a decision to accept Him. Shouldn’t we be so grateful for him to accept us?
I invite you to read (Sinners in the hand of an angry God) a sermon preached by Jonathan Edward on July 8th 1741, Edwards had a true sense of who God is!

Thanks for reading
Abe Mummau

Gil Gulick said...


I appreciate your comments and your taking the time to write. I think Christians can learn a lot from each other in these types of discussions, so I look at all of this in a positive light.

Would you agree that a parable is a kind of story? Nearly every definition I have found today is similar to yours, except for the presence of the word "story" or narrative. In his paraphrase, "The Message", Eugene Peterson uses the word "stories" in Mark 4:10-12. I will admit they are not exactly the same as the stories many pastors use in their sermons. But, I think there are some similarities. Stories can help make an abstract or difficult concept personal. They provide the listener with a point of reference they can relate to in order to help them better understand the message a speaker is trying to convey. Can our stories ever measure up to the ones Jesus used? Of course not, and neither will any sermon I ever preach even begin to approach the ones Jesus gave 2000 years ago. However, I do believe it is appropriate to attempt to model sermons after the style that Jesus used, even though we know we can never live up to the standard he set.
The primary point I have been trying to convey is this. There are many out there who believe that the Bible is the sole revelation of God to his people. As I stated in a post today, I do not believe that. I believe God is still talking to people today. I believe this because I have heard him speaking to me. I have heard people attacking pastors, who have been mentors to me, by saying their preaching is not biblical. When questioned on what was not biblical about the sermon, they respond by saying that he wasn't holding a Bible while he was preaching and he didn't go through the passage verse by verse. However, if you analyze what the preacher said, the teachings were entirely biblical -- consistant with the message of the text the sermon was based on.
I guess I have not done a good enough job of making it clear that my problem is with the term "Biblical Preaching" when it is misdefined and misused to attack another minister. All ministers should be practicing biblical preaching(notice the lack of quotes), and if they are not, they need to find another line of work. I also believe that every sermon should be based on scripture. However, I think the best pastors will use all of the knowledge and techniques the Lord has blessed us with to convey the wonderful message of the Gospel. Does this mean that the audience should leave feeling good about themselves after every sermon. No. But the audience should never leave a sermon without being told that God loves them.

I think we agree more than we disagree, and I appreciate you taking the time to write.