Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Preaching That Crackles

I think much of the problem behind contemporary preaching is that we often try to do everything but simply preach the text. We entertain, offer therapy, and pile on an extra serving of sentimentalism for good effect. The resulting mix is a casserole that, like the one dish noone will touch at the church potluck, lacks savor and nourishment alike.

We need to forget about comedy, forget about amusing ourselves, forget about trying to feel good, and to simply preach the text. We need preaching that crackles. Sunday mornings should be like a lightning-storm in a barn. The Word should thunder from the pulpit as the preacher declares the truth of God's Word and then applies it to the lives of his hearers, believers and unbelievers alike. Avoiding mere restatement, fanciful conjuring, and narcissistic silliness, the preacher is Moses come down from the mountain to speak to the awed assembly. A few days ago, he was Jacob, wrestling with the text, beseeching God to give him the scriptural understanding and affectional passion he so needs to preach. Yes, in a postmodern world, he is John the Baptist, with truth in his mouth and fire in his eyes. He gives you the impression that he could, if providence were willing, shoot some lightning out of his hands as he gestures, not because of his gifting or power, but because he has come into contact with the Word, and lived to tell about it.

But the congregation is Moses, too. Mere feet from us the bush burns, and we are struck down in awe and reverential fear. When we are in the presence of the Word, preached truly and passionately, we do not yawn or sigh or think about sports or cooking or what the kids in front of us are whispering. We are gripped and grabbed and shook up by the Word of God. If it were socially acceptable, we would fulfill our corporate role as Moses and rip our shoes off our feet, for we know that in the presence of the Word we are in holy territory. The Word rightly preached, you see, does not need assistance from humor or cleverness or sentimentality. It is a radioactive document. You and I approach the Bible like it's a nice little book. Early in the morning, we pour cereal and sit down and open up the Bible and read it for a few moments before drifting into thoughts about the day and our clothing and other small distractions. Meanwhile, the Word glows, growing hotter, becoming Babylon's furnace. If we were not like Daniel covered by the grace of God, we would melt. You and I approach the Bible, and we think it's a nice little book that whispers to us. But the Bible will devour us, like Jonah, and spit us out, drenched, gasping for air, not believing what we have just encountered. You and I approach the Bible, and we think it's nice and neat and tame, but we meet God in these pages, and when you meet God, you fall down to the ground as fast as your instantaneously inert limbs will allow you. The Word of God is not tame or boring or silly or comical or maudlin. The Word of God is brute force mixed with radioactive power. You would come to it expecting a cheery word for the day, and you would open it, and your thoughts would drift, and then your loved ones would find you, melted.

You think I'm a little weird, and my writing is strange, but the Bible is powerful, and we don't know it, and we don't live like it, and we don't do devotions like we know it, live it, or like it. Worse yet, our preachers are no better. They think they deal with a tame little book, and they preach tamely. Meanwhile, the Bible sits on the podium, crackling, stirring, ready to spit radioactive power at a congregation filled with weakness. So if you find a preacher that preaches funny things, and sweet things, or boring things, you might take him aside, and kindly tell him that the Bible crackles with power.

If he doesn't believe you, show him your melted cereal bowl.


Blogger Paul Cable said...

Thanks for a great post, really well-written. Do you think that maybe the reason that many preachers rely on humor, silliness, sentimentality, etc. to captivate the assembly is that they simply don't believe the Word itself, preached plainly, is powerful enough to touch the affections and change the hearts of its hearers? Also, could I have permission to link your blog from "A Piece of the Continent?"

10:42 AM  
Blogger Dad said...

Oh that this would the rule rather than the exception. And there are a number of teachers in the church that have a great deal of sincerity and even 'crackle', but don't teach the word or don't teach it well.

If what you are talking about is true to any extent it has to be the work of the Spirit of God. I've been visiting a number of churches lately. There is not much crackle in the pulpit nor in the pew, but rather a great deal of comfort with the way things are.

Even as a teen God made me aware of the spiritual and Biblical ignorance that existed in church, and I was pretty poor spiritually as well. Some people see the masses as their mission field, and praise God for them. I see the "church" as mine.

Though how to reach them is a bit of a challenge and problem.

Your last couple of lines regarding preachers. So far I have run into very few Appollos' who have had a heart to listen.

May God give us all a heart and soul that hungers for Him.

Al (The dad of another another blogger, not "Owen" and not that "
Al" either.)

4:05 AM  

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