My three year old announced last week, “I had to get my Bible to do my sermon.” I’m fairly certain she has never seen a sermon in her life. Still, she somehow knew she needed her Bible to do it. If only today’s preachers felt the same.
Often times, the Bible is a springboard to facilitate some creative idea or angle. Other times it seems to be missing altogether. I’m not against creativity in preaching. We need more of it. But the text must provide the framework in which creativity takes place.
“Love God and love others. It’s as simple as that.” I’ve said some variation of that phrase in my preaching too many times to count. It’s a simple way I remind people about the centrality of practicing the Great Commandment. It’s easy to chase secondary issues and miss the vertical and horizontal dimension of this command.
It dawned on me though that I’ve not done a good job of describing what it means biblically to love God and others. Unlike theologically weighty terms, love (on the surface) does not seem to require further explanation. But when the call to love is not clearly defined, cultural bias and definitions take over. People assume they know what it means without digging into the text to see what it really means. As a preacher, my role is too important to continue doing that.
When non-believers visit a church, they show a great deal of respect for that church. There are a lot of other things they could be doing but aren’t. They are giving up their time to be with us.
So why is it that a lot of churches feel the need to dumb down the standards of the faith? Why are we afraid to tell the truth about what we believe? Non-Christians are looking for us to be real. Let’s not insult them. Let’s be honest as we proclaim the greatest news in the world.
“I don’t like preachers who are judgmental” is a refrain I’ve heard numerous times. Many people use it as an excuse for infrequent (or a lack of) church attendance. When I probe a little, it turns out what they are really saying is “I don’t like people telling me that what I’m doing is wrong.”
There’s no denying many preachers cross the line from speaking the truth in love to manipulating behavior through guilt. There is no place for that and those who do it should be called on it. But calling believers to live according to the teaching of Scripture is not judgmental. It is the role of the pastor. May those of us who preach share the truth but do so in humility.