Monday, October 13, 2008

Preaching that is relevant . . .

I have been challenged by a book I am reading. Dave Shiflett, in his book Exodus, chronicles the mass exodus out of mainline denominations like the United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Disciples of Christ churches. He observes that congregants don't want to hear political pablum from their pulpits:
Most people don't go to church to learn the minister's opinions on whatever happens to be in the headlines. They can get similar opinions sitting on their sofas watching television, quite possibly presented by someone much better-looking.

Most people go to church to get something they cannot get elsewhere. The consuming public - people who already believe, or who are attempting to believe, or who want their children to believe - go to church to learn about the mysterious Truth on which the Christian religion is built. They want the Good News, not the minister's political views or intellectual coaching. The latter creates sprawling vacancies in the pews. Indeed, those empty pews can be considered the earthly reward for abandoning heaven, traditionally understood.
I agree with Shiflett, I think, (except, perhaps about the better-looking part). That is why I've steered clear of politics in preaching. I do wrestle, however, with the tension of preaching what is relevant to the times in which we find ourselves. The headlines often have moral and spiritual significance. A recent issue of City Pulse, Lansing's self proclaimed newspaper, "for the rest of us," recently carried a cover story promising to tell us "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality."

Where the headlines are so clearly in opposition to the Scriptures as I, our church, and indeed two thousand years of orthodox Christianity understand them, I cannot and should not remain silent.

So where is the line between personal political opinion and scriptural absolutes?

Oh, it turns out Shiflett is a pretty good songwriter, too.


mike waugh said...

I read from Acts 13:1-12 this morning, and noticed something in the exhange between Paul and Elymas the sorcerer.

When Elymas opposed Paul and Barnabas, as they were going to speak to someone who desired to hear the gospel, Paul called him out on it, calling him a child of the devil.

What I found interesting is that Paul didn't then try to convince Elymas of the truth. He simply asked him a question - "Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?"

I'm not sure how this fits in with your question yet. I just know that in my own ministry I am feeling like I need to spend more time with those who desire to hear the word of God, and less time with those who desire to oppose it.

Benjamin J Hobbs said...

After reading the article in question, I feel I need some real Biblical teaching, not 2nd- or 3rd-hand conjecture and "personal experience."

James Pahl said...

If anything the article is misleading.

I did not see any interpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Wasn't that what the article was supposed to be about?

Interesting. I like how a "credible news story" like that is grouped in with other articles like "Study shows men like hot women." Clearly this is a groundbreaking newspaper.

preacherman said...

Wonderful post.
I took a sabatical for about 2 years. I went to churches to see what was being taught. Yes, politics, church issues such as (worship contemporary vs. traditional, womans role in the church, and countless other topics that had no relevance to my life). I sat there with people my age late 20's early 30's think so what! Who cares! How does this apply to my life? I want something I can take and help me live better. I want to be inspired. I want to be challenged. So I really believe with all of my heart that we as pastors, ministers, church leaders need to preach with relevance. We need to inspire. We need to build up and encourage those who come to church. I see worship as a pep-rally for Christians to help them live the Christian life Sunday to Sunday. I want them to feel uplifted. Strong. Encouraged. Built up. And yes, challenged. There are times I want to make them think about their faith, God, problems in life, and countless other issues. I want them to them to develop their own faith. Not their parents or grandparents faith but their own. I want them and it is my number one desire that they have a person, intamate relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity is all about relationship. I stress to my congregation that there is a huge difference in knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.

Thank you for this wonderful post.
I hope my thoughts have helped.
I have added your blog to my favorites Frank. I wil post as often as my health allows. God bless and have a wonderful week! :-)