Friday, March 9, 2007

Dear Church Members,

As a servant of Christ and His church, I feel compelled to write you and express my deepest concern for the present condition of preaching in our churches. You may wonder why I don't address the preachers. After all, they are the ones primarily responsible with preaching. That is true. But I write you because what you believe about preaching will change the way your pastor preaches. If you are content with fluff from the pulpit, expect it. If you are satisfied by feel-good sermons, expect them. When it comes to preaching, you usually get what you ask for! This is unfortunate but true. Thus, I'm appealing to you: Examine your view of preaching.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:21-25

I. Preaching Is Pleasing
Verse 21 says, "it pleased God." Preaching pleases God! In a day when many churches are "man-centered," (seeking to please people), the Bible tells us that preaching is to be God-centered (seeking to please God). I've heard of pastors doing all sorts of things to please people -- coffee and beer! And all this is in hopes to get/keep you coming to church. Many of these pastors should be ashamed of the ways they lure people in, but do you see why they do it? This is the only way they can get you to church!
What are you expecting from the sermon? Do you want it to cater to your wants and please you or do you want it to focus on pleasing the Lord and obeying Him?

II. Preaching Is Centered
All sermons - even bad ones - are centered on something. Most preachers today center their messages on the "needs of the congregation." Thus, we have sermons on how to be a better parent, how to be content with your job, etc. Those are the things you think about on a fairly regular basis. But is that really what you need? Think about it. Will 7 steps to being a happier person actually help you in eternity? Will 5 ways to spice up your marriage get you to heaven? No. You need sermons that are centered on something greater than your "felt-needs."
Verse 23 says, "we preach Christ crucified." That should be the central message from our pulpits: the Holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the sacrificial death & glorious resurrection of Christ, and the command to repent and believe! That's the Gospel... that's the Bible. Thus, preaching should be Gospel-centered, Bible-centered. That is your real need. You need to weekly be reminded of your sinfulness and pointed back to the mercy and grace of your Savior. That will fit you for heaven! And that will fit you for earth (this kind of preaching will change your soul, which will change your marriage, your job, etc).
Do you want your preacher to excite your attention & impress your ears or do you want your preacher to feed your soul? What you expect is what you will get.

III. Preaching Is Saving
You need real preaching that is seeking the Father's pleasure and that is centered on Christ's Gospel because the Holy Spirit uses that kind of preaching to do His most powerful and miraculous work. Verse 21 says, "to save those who believe." Preaching is the instrument that God uses to save people! Not cantatas, not children's plays, not fellowship dinners... preaching. Can people get saved at those things? Yes. Are people saved through those things? No.
Romans 10:14 says, How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Some of you may think preaching is too boring for our visual society. Some of you may think preaching is too authoritative for our anti-authoritarian society. Some of you may think preaching is too intellectual for out anti-intellectual society. So instead, you think we should sing the message or we should act out the message. You think those are better ways to reach this culture. But that is "wisdom" of men. God has chosen the foolish, weak tool of preaching to shame the (seemingly) wise, strong ideas of men.
Prophets like Isaiah, Amos, and Ezekiel preached. Jesus Christ preached. When He sent out the twelve, He sent them to preach. God has and will always use the preaching of His Word to communicate His truth to sinful souls.

Because of these truths from 1 Corinthians 1:21-25, I plead with you, brothers and sisters, to do the following:
1) Listen to Preaching -- Preachers are responsible for what they say, you are responsible for what you hear. God commands you to hear His Word. How do you listen to the sermon? DO you listen? Reverently listen and humbly obey the Word.
2) Prioritize Preaching -- If the church offered you free pills each week that would ease all of your aches and pains, you would make every effort to be there. You'd drop everything to get there. Yet, 1 Corinthians teaches us that something even greater is offered through preaching -- salvation! God saves us and makes us holier through preaching. Will you not get out of bed for that? Will you not bring the kids for that? Don't neglect the preaching of the Word; it's too important.
3) Pray for Preaching -- If you realize that your preacher isn't living up to God's standards in his preaching, don't desert him. Lift him up to the Father. If you want better sermons, don't talk about the preacher, pray for him. Also, consider a gentle, loving way of talking with him about his sermons. If he doesn't care and continually will not hear your concern, then find another church. But only after much prayer for your current church's preacher.

May our pulpits be filled with men who will faithfully preach the Word so that our souls would be fed and our lives would be changed. Amen.

For the Gospel,


John said...

What's wrong with free beer? (just kidding) I agree completely with everything you wrote. You know taking a little fluff out of the music wouldn't hurt either.

Jarod said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you Josh. I think it is interesting that Psalm 119:11 says the way to fight sin in our life is to feed on the word not follow a lists from a self help book. The way the Holy Spirit works in our sanctification is by illuminating our eyes to the glory of God that we might treasure Him above all things. This is done by bringing the word of God to our mind that we may meditate on it. There must be something for the Holy Spirit to illuminate and that is where preaching and bible study come into play. So when you are dealing with depression, lust, pride, or anything else don't reach for a self help book but reach for the Bible. May our churches become less like a circus and more like a training ground for heaven where we will see and savor Jesus Christ for all eternity.