I want to take an opportunity to thank those of you who have been praying for me on Fridays as I attempt to write The Discipline of Discernment. I look to Fridays with equal excitement and dread—excitement to be working on the book and dread that I will end the day downtrodden and feeling like I just can’t make this book work. There have been times when I’ve felt, almost literally, picked up while struggling with writing it. I’ve been feeling down and have been about ready to give up, when I’ve just felt a surge of strength. I know that this is God’s answer to your prayers. So thank you. And please continue. It means the world to me.
The State of Preaching
I don’t often read The Southern Seminary Magazine but noticed an interesting article in the most recent edition. In the “President’s Journal,” Al Mohler writes a brief commentary on “The State of Preaching Today.” As he reflects on this, he writes “On the one hand, there are signs of great promise and encouragement. On the other hand, several ominous trends point toward dangerous directions for preaching in the future. The last few decades have been a period of wanton experimentation in many pulpits and preaching has often been redefined and reconceived as something other than the exposition and application of the biblical text.”
He considers five points relevant to the downgrade of preaching:
A loss of confidence in the power of the Word - Our culture is gravitating towards images as the preferred mode of communication. Words are, then, necessarily losing their power and this in turns impacts preaching. But “the audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God, spoken through the preacher's voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver.”
An infatuation with technology - “We live in a day of technological hubris and the ubiquity of technological assistance. For most of us, the use of these technologies comes with little attentiveness to how the technology reshapes the task and the experience. The same is true for
preachers who have rushed to incorporate visual technology and media in the preaching event.” While technology is not inherently bad, it has allowed the visual to overcome the verbal. And yet God has chosen to be heard and not seen. We know God not through what we see but what we read and hear. We know God through the Word.
An embarrassment before the biblical text - “Many preachers simply disregard and ignore vast sections of Scripture, focusing instead on texts that are more comfortable, palatable and non-confrontational to the modern mind.” There is much in the Bible that makes us uncomfortable and maybe even a little bit embarrassed. But the Bible, from cover to cover, is the Word of God and must be taught. It all exists for our edification and we must not dismiss those parts that are more difficult to understand and reconcile.
An evacuation of biblical content - “Another problem that leads to an evacuation of biblical content is a loss of the "big picture" of Scripture.” Rather than preaching the big picture of the Bible and rather than pointing to the story of redemption, many preachers focus instead on only individual passages, treating them much like fortune cookies and acting as if they are disconnected from the rest of Scripture.
An absence of the Gospel - “The clear presentation of the Gospel must be a part of the sermon, no matter the text. As Charles Spurgeon expressed this so eloquently, preach the Word, place it in its canonical context and ‘make a bee-line to the cross.’” Too few preachers speak of issues of morality and practical living, but omit a clear presentation of the gospel. In so doing they eviscerate the power of preaching.
Too many churches and too many preachers have made preaching something it was never meant to be. Mohler’s conclusion presents the simplicity of preaching. “In the end, the Christian preacher simply must confront the congregation with the Word of God. That confrontation will be at times awkward, challenging and difficult. After all, this is the Word that pierces us like a sword. The evangelical preacher must set his aim at letting the sword loose, neither hiding it nor dulling its edge.”
An excellent article, it is well worth reading and sending to others.
Ripping Up Roads
An article in the Edmonton Sun caught my eye. A reporter discusses his favorite childhood game which involved groups of boys constantly scrapping to attain the privilege of being King of the Hill. It sounds like a great game and exactly the kind of game I loved playing as a boy. But it’s also the kind of game that schools are now forbidding. According to this article, some schools in Edmonton have now banned the game of tag.
Apparently for the first time in human history, some children have been spotted getting overexcited and carried away.
In the words of one public school official, “When tag escalates to a punch or a karate chop, it’s not fun anymore.”
But blaming the game because some kid is not playing by the rules is like ripping up roads to eliminate drunk driving.
It’s absurd, isn’t it? I half expected that tag would be banned because of concerns for the fragile egos of children who are always chasing and never being chased. I would imagine that this is coming as well.