Preaching in a Contemporary Culture
I know that in many ways I am a contrarian. I have become disillusioned with all the latest theories of why the old ways don’t work and why we need to do the latest, greatest, cutting edge thing in Church. But has anyone noticed that the more we do the cutting edge thing, the more the church declines? It is possible that attenders can tell the fake from the real, and the serious meaty practices from the hype of from the cutting edge? Perhaps the reason the church declines is that people want reality from Scripture instead of the fake hype from the church marketer.
I have strong feelings about preaching. I think that we should let the Bible dictate the sermon and not make the text say what it does not say. Personally I think the best way to preach is to preach through a Book and allow the text to say what it needs to in its own context. Sometimes I will preach a series on a subject. But series preaching can be dangerous in that we choose the topic and we may disallow the text to speak to us. This is why I think we must be very cautious when we preach a series of topics to insure that the meaning of the text is left intact.
I believe that God empowers our preaching through the Holy Spirit. The Bible itself, the Word written, is a living word and it speaks to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus when we preach, we need to be in concert with the doctrine of Scripture. We need to understand and expect that the text will have an effect on the intended audience even though we may not see the effect ourselves.
With this in mind, I came across the following on PreachingToday Blog.
May 17, 2007
by Donald R. Sunukjian
As preachers, whenever we want an illustration of some biblical truth, our minds easily gravitate toward biblical stories (like the story of Joseph for God’s working good in a situation, of Job for patience, or of Elijah for depression). But I question the validity of such a practice, and whether such “biblical illustrations” are genuinely effective in a sermon.
In Invitation to Biblical Preaching (Kregel, 2007), I write:
The time to teach a biblical story is when it is the primary passage for your message, not when it is a secondary illustration of another passage. In other words, you should preach the story Joseph and his brothers as part of a series through Genesis, and not as an illustration of Romans 8:28 (i.e., “all things work together for good”).
Biblical illustrations are seldom as helpful or as effective as contemporary pictures from the everyday lives of your listeners, and should be rarely used.
Lets just say that I disagree with this statement. So, I responded to the blog with the following. The position taken by the author is bewildering to me and I could not disagree more. Stories and illustrations must be appropriate to the text preached. And if a biblical illustration is appropriate, then we should use it.
I get a little tired of preaching experts telling us that we must make the Bible relevant to today’s society. I can’t think of anything that is more relevant. We often think of the text as a lion to be tamed. But it cannot be tamed. Rather, preaching is like riding on the back of the lion. It takes us places. And when it does, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the sermon is more than relevant, it is powerful and life changing. If God’s promise that his Word will not return to him void, how could it be anything but powerful and life changing? It makes one wonder if we preachers have lost our faith in Scripture and the power of biblical preaching?
When I read the Bible, I am always amazed at how little human nature has changed and how much we are like them. We may not shepherd sheep but we are quite familiar with love, lust, the will to power, hated of God and man, arrogance, ambition, and desire. We have the History Channel and the History Channel International, both are very popular. HBO has been running the popular historical Series, Rome and Showtime the series on the Tudors. People find history compelling precisely because they see themselves in ancient behavior. Why would we ever think the stories from Scripture were any less compelling?