Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Preach the Gospel!

A talented young Evangelical preacher recently posted an entry on his blog with some good points for preaching to today’s audience, but his basic model also caused me some concern. He says…
"Here is the model: Make people feel like they need an answer to a question. Then take them to God's Word to answer the question. And tell them why it is important to do what we just talked about. And then you close by saying, "Wouldn't it be great if everybody did that?" And that's it. It is a journey. You take people from somewhere to somewhere."

Here’s what I like about the model:

+ It starts with people, not with a text. Fredrich Buechner was right when he said that the truth of a sermon is already there before the preacher opens his lips. It is there in the hearts and the lives of those who have come to hear the preacher speak. It is there in the couple who had an argument on the way to church. It is there in the old man who has a spot of egg on his tie and does not know it. It is there in the single parent who wonders if she will always be alone. …. The truth is there in the people. Find a need and speak to it. (The need, of course, may be found in a text. I’m not opposed to lectionary preaching.)
+ It looks to the Word for guidance. It is not just the stating of pious opinion, but a declaration of God’s Word.
+ It ends with a celebration of what might be in the power of Christ. It has a goal. It expects something to happen.

What concerns me is that one could easily follow this model and never preach the gospel, the Good News of God’s action in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the power and the motivation for a renewed life. The model above seems to be saying tell them…

+ Here’s the problem
+ Here’s the answer to the problem
+ Here’s what you need to do about it
+ Wouldn’t it be great if everybody did it

The gospel message is “Here’s what God has done about your basic problem and what that means for you as you address the issues of life.” The gospel is the means and the motivation that brings people “from somewhere to somewhere,” and it begins not with a journey, but with an action of God carried out by His grace in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now perhaps the good brother meant all that, but I have heard too many sermons through the years that would fit his model and yet preach nothing but the Law, giving us the “Five Biblical Keys to Marital Happiness,” or What the Bible says about Money.” Telling me why it is important to follow certain principles, and then pointing to how good my life will be if I follow them, doesn’t always work – as any parent will tell you. Lasting motivation comes from the knowledge of a loving God who can pick me up, turn me around, and walk with me every step of the way. Preach the gospel!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your emphasis on the gospel as the focus of preaching for change. Paul Tillich in "The Church and Contemporary Culture" said:
"But it [the church] must understand that the average kind of preaching cannot reach the people of our time. They must feel that Christianity is not a set of doctrinal, or ritual, or moral laws. It is, rather, the good news of the conquest of the law by the appearance of a new healing reality. They must feel, too, that the Christian symbols are not absurdities unacceptable to the mind of our period, but that they point to what alone is of ultimate concern -- the ground and meaning of our existence and of existence generally"