the weblog of Alan Knox

Preacher

Posted by on May 4, 2008 in blog links, discipleship | 7 comments

I usually preach two or three times every six weeks to two months. Friday, when I read these words on Dave Black’s blog (Friday, May 2, 5:02 pm), I couldn’t say “Amen” enough! These words express exactly what I feel about preaching:

This Sunday I’ve been asked to “preach” at a couple of churches in North Carolina. I have almost come to loath that word. Just as people can watch spellbound a circus performer tumbling through the air in a tight rubber costume, so they can listen to a “preacher” who uses the Bible to draw attention to himself. Especially if his sermon is “well-crafted.” I have known a good many preachers who in many ways seemed quite frivolous in their exaggerated and confused enthusiasms. The problem is that a sensational preacher stimulates only the senses and leaves the spirit untouched. I usually pray before I speak, “God, you speak and help me get out of the way.” I really mean it. I don’t feel I have anything unique to say. Usually I just verbalize what people already know in their heart to be true. I think it’s all very unsensational, actually. Yes, I’m very glad to “preach” in churches week after week. But I really just talk about what the text is saying — a text that transcends time and place and unifies us with the one God who is Father of all believers in all places and all times.

Like Dave says, most people know what Scripture says, and yet preachers usually spend an inordinate amount of time trying to explain it – sometimes in flowery speech and dramatic fashion. The problem is usually not understanding or even applying… the problem is usually obeying God. And, that’s not something that I – or any other preacher – can affect. I can speak, but I have to trust the Spirit to teach, apply, convict, strengthen, and guide in obedience. That takes alot of faith.

It would be much easier to play with people’s emotions and guilt them into doing something they don’t really want to do. It would be easier… but not spiritually edifying. It would be easier… but it would show more faith in my own abilities than in God. It would be easier… but its not my responsibility. It would be easier… but it would also be disobedience on my part. My responsibility is teaching… the results are completely up to God.

So…. to all the teachers and preachers out there… do you trust him to teach and convict and guide his own children toward obedience and maturity?


7 Comments

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  1. 5-4-2008

    As one who, to my shame, used to preach in the flesh the way you are describing (trusting my own abilities rather than allowing God to speak through me), I have to say that I have come to the same position as you and Brother Dave on this.

    I don’t get asked to “preach”, so I can’t speak to that any longer, but I can say that even in our simple church gatherings when I feel the urge to share something in a “teaching” manner, I try to have a similar attitude as what you have described here.

    For that matter, I even try to approach my blog writing that way, now that I think about it…

  2. 5-4-2008

    Alan,

    I, too, had to say “amen!” to Dave Black’s words, and now, also to yours.

    The teaching of men, of years gone by, many of whom were used mightily of God, spoke to the people molded by the society in which they lived, whose hearts and minds, WHILE NO LESS SINFUL THAN OURS,were the product of the society of their day.

    God is immutable but mankind is, obviously, NOT!

    As a result,our great need, in attempting to make disciples today, is THINKING, PRAYING men of today, whose minds reside in the world of TODAY, who read and study the Scriptures to find how God’s precious, unchanging word speaks to TODAY!

    Even though I don’t stand before a congregation any more, both you and Dave encourage me greatly.

  3. 5-4-2008

    Alan,

    I think part of the problem behind what you are saying here is the tendency, in most churches, for the “monologue” style of communicating and teaching God’s Word to dominate to such a large degree over other styles.

    There may indeed be moments, though, in which a “monologue” may be the most effective way to share our thoughts with our brothers and sisters. And, though, I am in complete agreement that, at the bottom line, it is only the Holy Spirit who can take our words and apply them to the hearts of the listeners, that does not take away the value of sound homiletical principles in our exposition. In all that we do for the Lord, we should strive to do it the best we know how. There is a balance between using flowery language to impress others, or rhetorical theatrics, on the one hand, and a dry, non-descript, exposition of Scripture that bores others, on the other hand.

  4. 5-4-2008

    Brother, I agree with your post wholeheartedly. My flesh loves attention and accolades, and by God’s Grace I am very good at speaking in public. I, too, at times have used the Word as a vehicle for self promotion. Over the years, I have come to learn that it is only the Spirit who gives any value to what I say. I’ve often found that the sermons I think are the most awful are the ones that speak most to hearts.

  5. 5-4-2008

    I understand obedience is the key – but I think you’d be surprised how many people don’t really know what the Bible says – there are some pretty strange doctrines floating around out there and strange interpretations.

    But, I think the point of Preaching is not so much to be didactic or instructive (telling people what to do) but instead preaching is to be prophetic and proclamatory (is that a word?) – in preaching the preacher proclaims the gospel and calls people to faith in God and Christ through the power of the Spirit – that is preaching.

  6. 5-4-2008

    Well, as one charged by a local congregation to do most of the preaching I sure hope I’m trusting God. Sometimes I think the folks are trusting more in me and my “oratory” than God.

    Alan, I’ve got a question for you. If preachers spend alot of time explaining what people already know, then what is the job of the preacher? Is this legitimate then to teach so much? Or should teachers try to go deeper?

  7. 5-4-2008

    Steve,

    You bring up something important… The things that Dave Black talked about apply to all types of speaking and writing – including blogs!

    Aussie John,

    Thanks for adding your voice to this conversation again. I appreciate your wisdom and experience very much!

    David,

    Yes, I think the monologue style of teaching and preaching, as well as the professionalization of the “clergy”, feeds the tendency to rely on a preacher’s ability than on the Spirit. I also agree that there are times when monologue teaching is appropriate.

    Larry,

    Yes, if the Spirit is the one who controls the results of any teaching, then we will not always be able to tell when something is “good” or not. I’ve noticed this as well.

    Brian,

    I’m sure that are cases where “strange doctrines” come about because of misunderstandings of Scripture. However, I think that most “strange doctrines” come about because we tend to pay more attention to the writings of men than to Scripture. But, yes, there are difficult parts of Scripture as well. Peter admits to as much.

    Scott,

    We teach what Scripture says. We help people learn how to apply it. Then we demonstrate it in our lives. People learn both from words as well as from examples. By the way, I think we must be willing to learn from others as well. Too many times we (teachers/preachers) don’t show people that we are also learning, and that God can teach us through them and that we can learn from them.

    -Alan