Another Sign of How Anemic Evangelical Pulpits Have Become

Just a note to readers of this blog — I didn’t make up this headline:  “Preaching through Bible has risks, pastors say

I know. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Reading the article won’t help, either. Seems we now need panel discussions among pastors to figure out what to preach and how to preach it. I’ll say it again: the most compelling point of evidence in my mind that biblical Christianity is the truth is the Church. It should have imploded a long time ago but hasn’t. God must be behind it.

Here are some choice pull quotes from my reading of this piece. My responses (at MSH) will once again remind all of you why I couldn’t be a pastor in today’s church.

“Many pastors believe tackling Scripture verse by verse from the pulpit is the only acceptable approach,” said moderator Ed Stetzer, general editor of The Gospel Project. “But that view may be different from the pews,” the four panelists agreed. [MSH: So what. Where did the idea that the people determine what’s preached come from?]

Continuity is broken if people don’t attend every service — and “I can guarantee you during football season you’re going to have people who are there every third Sunday,” said Chip Henderson, pastor at Pinelake Church in Jackson, Miss.” [MSH: Ditto on the so what? If football’s more important than learning Scripture, let them stay away. They need to hear they are accountable to God for such choices, not that the faithful people need to adjust to their misguided priorities.]

“A lengthy series of sermons can leave newcomers “feeling like they’re catching the movie in the middle,” said H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. [MSH: Excuse me, pastor, but have you not heard of recording your sermons? MP3s? What a lame objection this is. Again, zero accountability. Might I suggest that we challenge people’s hypocrisy when they claim to believe Scripture is inspired but can’t be bothered to show up somewhere to hear it explained for thirty minutes.]

“Most important,” Stetzer said, “a demand for expository preaching may discourage pastors in developing countries who lack the academic training to analyze every verse.” [MSH: Also lame. Their people would likely not demand this sort of preaching, and expository preaching need not be verse-by-verse anyway. The issue is giving them a sermon that derives from the text in demonstrable ways instead of spinning yarns and telling jokes with Bible phrases sprinkled in between. Preaching the text is about explaining what the text means and refusing to dilute it, dodge it, or filter it through a creed or foreign context. Give people the text and don’t make the fact that it was divided into verses sometime in the Middle Ages an excuse for not doing so.]

“Still, the pastors acknowledged the verse-by-verse approach isn’t commanded in Scripture and probably wasn’t practiced by the early church.” [MSH: True – but so what? Teach the text without using this false criterion as an objection to doing so. It’s not rocket science.]

“Pastors today can’t assume people understand Christian theology,” Charles said. “The heart of it is you need to explain things. People need to become familiar with the content of the Bible.”[MSH: And so the best way to do that is to be careful not to preach too much of the text? Hello?]

I’ll stop there for my own sanctification. You can read the rest. This is the sort of quandary that develops when we care too much about our audience being entertained or (perhaps more apropos) when we are afraid to challenge people with content. Thinking people know when they aren’t being asked to think. There are more of them in churches than many pastors suppose. It’s not the job of the pastor to keep people in spiritual diapers so they’ll keep coming back. Many really do want to learn something. The choice isn’t between offering them pablum from the pulpit or graduate level content. Just teach the text and tell them the goal is to learn one new thing each week and live out the truth in one way every week that takes them out of their comfort zone or builds spiritual discipline. That’s 52 new things / acts of obedience / good habits in a year. In a few years, you’ll have discipled people from the pulpit and will have more mature believers under your care than the year before. Catering to those disinterested in growing will stunt the growth of the ones who come for the right reasons. If there are so many of the unwilling in churches that pastors would lost their jobs over this, maybe it’s time for more tent-making ministry instead of a salaried class of pastors. But I doubt things are that far gone. At least at this point.

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