Posts Tagged ‘Critics’

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Parrying Common Preaching Objections

January 8, 2008

Its so in vogue these days to take pot shots at preaching. Before the turn of the year, the Think Christian blog ‘highlighted’ an article which does just that .

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(Photo by Jordan, Creative Commons License)

Part of that article made the following statement: “Preaching as it is practised in modern churches is extra-biblical, a poor form of communication, and creates dependency.” Really? Here’s how I would respond – though you may have more to add:

First, preaching as is practiced in modern churches (if by that the author means a herald who proclaims and explains God’s Word) is not extra biblical. Such a suggestion is unfounded and easily refuted by just a cursory reading of Scripture. Moses restates, explains and applies God’s law in Deuteronomy. Ezra gives ‘the sense’ of God’s precepts when the temple is rebuilt. Jesus expounds God’s law and applies it more fully in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul’s life and teaching are replete with Old Testament exposition (even Acts 17 can be shown, in its ‘content’, to be founded on several key OT passages). Last but not least, the author of Hebrews performs detailed exposition from the Law, prophets and psalms. See some very basic support for all this here.

Second, even if preaching were a poor form of communication, this would be primarily a cultural, pragmatic and experiencial argument – not a biblical one. Having questioned the supposedly ‘monologue’ sermon myself in past years, looking back I can see that the underlying issue was that I didn’t want to sit ‘under’ God’s Word. Such would involve one’s mouth being shut, ears being open, and heart being ready to embrace whatever challenge or correction God would bring. Furthermore, I’m not sure that even the pragmatic argument works. On the one hand, I could point to secular audiences (congregations!) who listen to stand up comedians for an hour straight – and twenty somethings at the likes of Mars Hill, Seattle and Redeemer, New York who sit with rapt attention for long periods (at Mars hill, for an hour and a half). On the other hand, it can as easily be argued – ‘experiencially’ – that dialogue can be less than helpful. My common ‘experience’ of discussion without a firm lead has been pooled ignorance, not a growing understanding of God. That said, discussion and questions as a ‘response’ to God’s Word is imperative, not least if we are going to listen to the bible AND ‘do what it says.’

Third, preaching need not necessarily create dependence. Certainly it can do, especially if preacher’s only show the fruits of their study and never how they worked to get there. Also there is a kind of preacher who tries to assert that they have some special interpretive ability that no other in the congregation posesses. In such a situation congregants become like parrot’s: ‘pastor______ says…’ Nevertheless, in churches where clear exposition occurs, the opposite is often the case. Precisely BECAUSE good interpretation is modelled, church members become more able to handle the bible themselves. Almost without fail, Christians who transfer to our chrch from other good bible expositing churches are the most capable in handling their bibles.