Preaching as War
7/13/12 at 01:00 PM 4 Comments

Fixing Boring Preaching, 2. Get High (Quit trying to be so practical!)

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Two times in my life I have listened to sermons on time management. Each time I was in my car and each time I was listening to a sermon from a church in my area. Each time I almost fell out of my car. Why on earth would any pastor waste a Sunday sermon instructing people on the finer points of time management? Sure, God wants us to steward our time –so say that! But an entire sermon on time management?

Yes, I sound like a grumpy old preacher. I’m not that old and not usually that grumpy. But the last thing we should do as preachers is belittle the greatness of Christ by using our main chance to declare Him to His people on a weekly basis giving them tips on wise living.

I know, I know, the Bible is filled with tips on wise living. I celebrate that! But our weekly opportunity to declare the “apostles’ teachings,” the precious good news of Christ, should not be reduced to “the 5 ways to have a more intimate marriage!” Or “10 ways to improve your prayer life.” Or “7 things that effective Christians do.” No one will remember all those things anyway!

Why do I seem so grumpy about this issue? Because God’s commission to us was “Feed my sheep,” not “burden them with tons of practical tips on how to live well.”

When people who know God come to worship, they want to be blown away by God. We have to declare the God who blows them away. Often a person endures a week of desiring more God, rightly hoping that when the church meets together, this “felt need” will be met. Many come after a long week surrounded by discouragement, stress, temptation, fear, anger, envy, difficulty, strife and trouble. It is tempting then, to try to figure out what their burdens might be and give them good advice on how to fix those issues. However, this temptation will not yield a God-loving joyous worshipful time for the church. Or we might be tempted to show visitors how helpful and practical ours sermons can be in their lives. But our concern should be to invite them to be intoxicated by the goodness of our God and His great Son.

A sermon on "7 ways to maintain your witness at school and work," might seem like it will fit the bill, but more likely, it will only increase the burden. “Now that the pastor has told me how to be a good witness at school, I can see I have a long way to go! I need to apply myself so that I am a good Christian.” Or “Man, I had 6 of those 7 things down! I am a great witness.” Or “I know I fail at work, I’ve tried. I’m such a loser.” or “I am not worried about being a good witness at work. I’m just plain worried and worrying all the time!” What they are not thinking about is, “Wow! How great my God is! How great His Salvation! He rocks!”

I am not saying that during a sermon, subjects like time-management or how-to-be-a-good-witness or how-to-live-properly-in-marriage should be avoided. On the contrary, the Bible touches on all areas of life. But the goal of the sermon is to put all of these issues in light of heaven and not earth –to show how each relates to the greatness of Jesus –and to show the great joy and treasure that Jesus is at this very moment. Declaring God is about heaven, it is about transcendence, it is about lifting people out of this world and into heaven. It is not about keeping people’s eyes on the world, their troubles, and how to make life smooth in Jesus’ name.

A Christian listening to a sermon, weighed down with the burdens of his life, will not find relief in advice on how to remove the burdens of life; that Christian will find relief in seeing the greatness and grace of God.

Many have overheard someone say of another, “He is so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good!” Now, if by that the person means, “He is so focused on being religious that he misses that he doesn’t enjoy people,” then okay. But otherwise, the idea that being earthly good requires taking one’s mind off of heaven is contrary to the gospel and the Bible.

Closer to the truth would be to say, “If you are not heavenly minded, you are of no earthly good.”
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” This language transcends the world’s trouble. The solution to the trouble is outside of this world, greater than this world.
“Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” This language transcends earth. “What does it profit a man to gain the world and loses His soul?” Transcendent language.
Paul teaches us, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This is Paul’s main theme for daily living. His language transcends this world.

Peter teaches us, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Fixing one’s hope “completely” on the grace that comes when the Lord returns requires transcending the present earthly reality to focus on the future glory that will one day arrive.

So, preachers, what are we to do? When preparing our sermons, we first identify what our text has to say, of course. Then, as we go through our other exegetical steps, we must be in prayer asking God to show us Jesus, show us the gospel, and show us eternity in the text we are preaching. We must put our own heads in heaven, in the greatness of salvation that we have yet to fully receive. We must become so convinced that we are giving our people a message from heaven that there is nothing else more important that they could be listening to on the planet at that moment. We are bringing a message about heaven, about Jesus, every single message –even if the subject is not heaven. We must always transcend.

Paul said he determined to preach, “Christ and Him crucified.” This of course does not mean that he didn’t touch on all the subjects of life that needed to be covered –he certainly did. But always in the context of losing one’s life to the One who resides in glory.

Christians don’t need their preachers to take up their time on Sunday giving them a verse about stewardship and then adding 10 ways to manage their time. They don’t need a pastor who tells them to “group like tasks together, schedule time for rest, prioritize your tasks by importance, that you can glorify God in how you manage your time.” Save that for a seminar or something. Give them a book. But during assembled worship, they need to hear about the One who is Lord of time! How He wants to them to redeem the time for the days are evil! One day the evil days come to an end! That is why each moment matters! Give each one to Him and He will be with you in every moment! (Wait, I’m getting carried away by an imaginary sermon –but you get the picture). This tone of preaching will do more to relieve the stress of a busy schedule than any seminar on time management ever could. It will also keep you from boring the flock.

Preachers, keep your head in the clouds so that you can lift God’s people from earth to heaven.

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