Learning to Listen

September 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Preaching

The WORD Network, The Church Channel, BOV, This is Your Day, Changing Your World, ad- infinitum. This is a very brief list of Cable TV offerings that people watch as they surf through the channels. What do they hear? What skills have they acquired to discern Truth from Error or worse, sheer apostasy? The average American Adult watches (??) hours per week of TV. Some of it will inevitably be ‘religious broadcast’.

Pastors have 30 – 45 minutes at best to shape the thinking of their people, assuming they attend each Sunday. Some percentage of their listeners will also participate in a Small Group or an Adult Bible Fellowship. At best, pastors have 3 hours per week to equip and shape the thinking of people in today’s mobile and autonomous minded culture. (The matter of structure for ministry and making people ACTIVE participants in the Drama of Redemption is a topic for another post).

The simple fact is this. Unless Pastors adopt and apply a very intentional and effective process to equip their people with listening skills, they will ultimately have a congregation full of theological smorgasbord. I often call this the ‘cafeteria’ approach to theology. When my earthly father retired in the Rio Valley of TX, he liked to dine at Luby’s Cafeteria because of the almost infinite variety of choices. When visiting, we were required to join him and at least act like we enjoyed the cuisine!! There is a one to one correlation between Luby’s Cuisine and the ‘variety’ one encounters in listening to cable TV. Both are subject to serious question as to the ‘nourishment’ acquired in “dining” there.

An additional factor in this dilemma, there is no systematic and effective process to know what people are assimilating. Their Worldview is shaped by all the mish-mash they gather from the hermeneutical disasters claiming to ‘preach the word’; (Numerology, Proof-texting, Prosperity ‘Gospel’, Eschatological Weirdos, etc. etc.)

Perhaps the most abused ‘victim’ in this tragedy is context. Any credible Bible School teaches in Hermeneutics 101 the importance of context. Context is King! Listen for 15 minutes and try to apply this vital principle to what you hear.

I have merely introduced the problem or challenge in this post. It is my desire to present some basic guidelines for the persons in the pew to apply while listening. Pray with me that our efforts equip the people of God with the skills and passion to hear, understand, obey and live!

Preaching that Transforms

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Preaching

Preaching has fallen on hard times. Attend a service in the current church culture in America and you may encounter Drama, Dance, Mime, Choreographed productions, Videos and the list goes on. There is a high probability that what you will NOT find is Preaching That Transforms.

There are those who would celebrate this condition. They would claim that preaching is an anachronistic endeavor no longer applicable or appropriate for the church of the 21st century. There are those who would claim to be “preaching”, but what they are engaged in is a discussion about the Bible, but not the proclamation of the Truth claims of the text. My focus in this brief article is to champion the glorious art of preaching that God has used over the centuries to Transform His people – - preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2). To accomplish this end I offer the following definitions to guide our thinking.

Preaching is “the communication of Truth through personality” (Phillips Brooks). Brooks described the ministry as “the noblest and most glorious calling to which a man can give himself.”

Transformation – is the objective and observable positive change in the life of a disciple into the character and likeness of Jesus Christ.

Disciple – is a Believer who is becoming more like Christ. Their Transformation is consistent, objective and measurable. Transformation comes from the study of the Scriptures, applying the precepts and principles in daily living, and imitating the life of a disciple as modeled by mature believers. There is a deliberate and intentional effort to obey all that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:19-20).

To accomplish transformation and make disciples fully formed in the image of Christ the following four (4) factors are essential to preach with an effectiveness that transforms.

Authority – the Bible must be recognized as the Word of God. It is His Special Revelation of His person and purpose in securing a people for Himself out of every tribe and tongue and nation. Christ actually accomplished redemption for sinners. He came to save. It is Truth Absolute.

History – The unfolding events recorded in the text are the Drama of Redemption. Every artifact unearthed by the archeologist confirms the accuracy and reliability of the text. Yes Virginia, there really is a Xerxes! The Bible is reliable history.

Exegesis – Words and their relationships give meaning to language. God chose to communicate with words. The Masoretic text of the OT and the Koine’ Greek of the NT are dead languages, the meaning of words does not change. When we exercise the discipline to understand with accuracy what the text is saying, we know with certainty what God designed for our good and His glory.

Application – The preacher must guide the listener into an understanding of the historical context revealed in the text. He then must make proper and legitimate application of that revelation to life in the 21st century. Technology is exploding the parameters of scientific understanding. Cultures differ across geographic landscapes. However, the revelation of our God to mankind is binding upon all people for all time. It is the joyful privilege of the exegete to unfold the text and its application to life today. We lead God’s people to obey all that Jesus has commanded and to find His Grace abundant and infinite.

“It is an enormous privilege to be called to preach in the contemporary world, to be a biblical expositor! For one then stands in the pulpit, with God’s Word in his hands, God’s Spirit in his heart, God’s people before his eyes, waiting expectantly for God’s voice to be heard and obeyed.” (John Stott, Christian Preaching in the Contemporary World).

So pastor, what is your transformation quotient? God is our judge, but are you striving to communicate the Truth, the revelation of God that will bring about transformation in the flock entrusted to you?

What is the role of preaching in the church today?

March 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Preaching

What is the role of preaching in the church today?

Book Review of Pagan Christianity by Barna and Viola

The Positive Factors

The authors have pulled back the curtain on a number of sacred cows; Sunday School (pp. 212-213), the Altar Call (pp.64-68), the Decision Card, Jesus as Personal Savior, the Goal of Preaching is Soul Winning, all in Chapter 3, pp. 47-84. The documentation they offer and most of the rationale is solid. Many of these ‘cows’ should have been slain long ago. Bill Easum wrote a book titiled Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers. Barna & Viola had a super barbecue in this chapter alone! There is no question that these issues came to be regarded in the evangelical community as though they had support in the text of Scripture. They do not and most of them have proven extremely detrimental to the progress of the gospel and the kingdom for many years. Further, any pastor who did not promote and support these practices was considered a heretic at best. The authors did a credible service to the church by bringing these things to light with documented support. They show with clarity that these issues are primarily appendages, barnacles that attached themselves to the fabric and life of the church.

The Negative Factors

In most instances they prove too much. For example, we should not have church buildings. Is there far too much invested in the establisment and preservation of facilities? Yes. Does that prove that we should not have a campus, a building? No. the facility where I pastor is utilized actively on average 70+ hours per week. Most people are not in their private homes 70 hours per week. Does this then prove we should not have homes? I think not. Jesus did not drive a car. Therefore, neither should we? In many cases they built a ‘straw man’ and then torched him. Exciting, but not great scholarship or logic.

Summary

When the reader finishes this book he will say, WOW! In Chapter Four (4) the authors write with an utter disdain for preaching. I have heard some that deserves this assessment. However, that is not true of the process and practice of same. Their claim is that it does not produces change in the listener and that it is merely passive. In Acts 2:42 we read that the listeners ‘attached themselves to ‘ the teaching of the Apostles (????????????????). Preaching is largely monologic as practiced today. However, in the first century the church met every day (Acts 2:46). Are we to believe that they never discussed, dialogued about the content of the message? Absurd. In many churches the Sunday Sermon becomes the focal point of discussion in Small Groups. Without the content of the message delivered on Sunday this sharing and exchange is robbed of substance. Do a word search on preach or preaching and discover what the text says about preaching. I suggest we follow the text. Further, the authors do not deal with the ultimate design of ‘the church’. That is found in Rom 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; and Col. 1:28 – Transformation. I would agree that IF the ONLY venue a person engages each week is a monologue sermon, they will very likely not be transfromed. Having said that, the failure to be transformed is not the fault of the sermon, but, the failure of the person to live “life in community” as God designed for His people. Church is not a one hour per week gig in an auditorium looking at the back of the head of the person in front of you. It matters not whether they are seated in a pew, on a chair or on the floor! The transformation of the body requires specific venues, all designed to provide a strategic component in the Transformation process – - Worship (this includes Preaching), Fellowship (Instruction & Sharing) and Intimacy & Accountability (Small Groups).