Page 9 - October 2020 - Truth & Tidings
P. 9

IF YOU MUST PREACH, DON’T PREACH      sin and judgment is horribly off-putting.
        THE BIBLE                             Conventional wisdom is perfectly happy
          In this second commandment,         with sermons that contain many biblical
        conventional wisdom shows how         points about life, money, relationships and
        accommodating it can be. Preachers have   family, provided they avoid the gospel of
        to preach, it grants. No problem. You can   Jesus Christ.
        still retain a place of respect and honor in   However, there is a growing number
        society provided you take a sufficiently   of secular historians documenting the
        sophisticated approach to the Bible, or   profound ways in which the preaching of
        better yet, ignore it altogether. Everyone   the cross has shaped the western world,
        knows that for a church to survive it must   not least in grounding our concept of
        stop treating the biblical miracle reports   human rights. One such writer, Tom
        as historical and the resurrection as literal.  Holland, who describes himself as having
          Suppose  we  follow  this  advice  and   been “a woke liberal,” was asked what
        take a scientific approach to things.   he’d want to hear a Christian preach on.
        We might come across the carefully    His answer ought to make us sit up and
        conducted 2016 study, Theology Matters:   listen. He replied that there was no point
        Comparing  the  Traits  of  Growing  and   in Christian preachers recycling what
        Declining  Mainline  Protestant  Church   one can hear from a politician. Rather,
        Attendees and Clergy. One of the authors of   we should preach the strangeness of the
        the study, a mainline Protestant himself,   cross. Speaking in a British context, he
        summarized its key finding this way: “We   said, “I don’t want to hear what bishops
        found that conservative religious doctrine,   think  about  Brexit.  I  know  what  they
        known for emphasizing a more literal   think about Brexit and it’s not particularly
        interpretation of scripture, is a key driver   interesting. But if they’ve got views on
        for church growth in mainline Protestant   original sin, I’d be very interested to hear
        congregations. Liberal doctrine, which   that.”
        emphasizes a metaphorical interpretation,   Imagine that! We have the Word of
        leads to decline.” Small wonder that Billy   God but, Gideon-like, are still timid and
        Graham could say, “When I preach the   doubtful. We crouch down outside a tent
        Bible straight … God gives me a power   in the middle of the night and overhear a
        that’s beyond me …. When I pick up the   woke liberal wishing we’d preach more
        Bible, I feel as though I have a rapier in   on original sin! Let us make sure that
        my hands.”                            when our secular friends overhear us they
        IF YOU MUST PREACH THE BIBLE, DON’T   find us preaching the strangeness of the
        PREACH THE CROSS                      cross, not as something peripheral but as
          As a final concession, modern wisdom   the heart and soul – the very boast – of
        says, “Fine, preach the Bible, but whatever   our message. Conventional wisdom has
        you do, don’t preach the cross.” Often the   spoken too much, for after saying, “I gave
        argument is pragmatic: if you want to   you the strictest possible orders not to
        reach people you need to speak on relevant   give any teaching in this name,” it has to
        topics, not something that happened 2,000   concede, “Look what has happened – you
        years  ago.  Besides,  preaching  Christ   have transformed the whole world with
        crucified as the only way of salvation from   your preaching.”

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