This is the last post in a mini-series on anecdotal observations of churches. I don’t get out much, I’m in Edson most Sundays, but over the years I’ve visited several different churches in Canada and the U.S. on holiday. I’ve also had conversations with friends and family about their church experiences. In the churches I’m familiar with, preaching still takes place. That alone should be encouraging, but what is that preaching like?
As I’ve said in earlier posts, I’m disappointed in the general attitude of the service and in the music, but what makes me really sad (and sometimes mad) is the preaching. In each post I’ve said that there are notable exceptions, and I’m thankful for churches that value biblical, expositional preaching, but there is indeed a famine for hearing the Word of the Lord in the land.
The central problem, I've decided, is a rush to application. We don't hear what God is saying, we hear some “relevant” application about how this passage is really about us. Even if Jesus is mentioned, the main point is how we need to clean up our act or try harder at being good Christians. Call it "Law Lite," if you will, but the gospel is missing regardless. Sometimes, there is not even a discernable passage, just a verse or two projected on the screen behind the speaker. The sermon is usually very short, but the personal illustrations are long (some call this authenticity).
Is any of this new? No, not at all. Most of this probably describes the churches I grew up in for the most part (minus the PowerPoint), though I didn't know any different then.
The reason that I'm sad about this is that God presents us a feast and we go out of our way to serve junk food. A lot of people think that the worship stops when the music stops, but can we blame them if the message has nothing of God’s voice to recommend it as worship? If people think that preaching is a bore, they probably think that the problem is with them. I wish I could communicate to them that the problem is with the lack of biblical, gospel content in their services. God is not boring. Our sin and God's solution is not boring.
I asked earlier if this problem was new. Consider this wisdom from 2600 years ago:
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. -- Jeremiah 2:12-13
Again, let me stress that there are exceptions. Some churches really celebrate God and the Gospel in biblically faithful ways, but the longer I live, the more I realize how rare churches like this really are. If you attend one, be thankful. If you don't, then make some noise!
So what do I mean specifically about his poor preaching? Let me point you to another source. As I began this post, I thought about an article that I read in Modern Reformation magazine several years ago (I just checked the date – 13 years ago!) and it is still available online. It pinpoints some common preaching problems.
If you are in a church with weak preaching, work on some constructive ways to alert your pastor to the wealth of preaching resources and examples that are available.