Monday, April 03, 2006
I am helping to organise the Liquid conference (I have mentioned it before) but it is now 3 weeks away!
http://advoc8.tear.org.au/?page_id=23 for info and registrations. I suggest you come along, because I am organising the speakers and there are so many great ones that I am sad I am not going to be able to hear them all.
On Saturday I played my first competitive game of Football in my Senior career. I came on as a substitute with about 20 minutes left to go. Eltham North were 2-0 down at half time. When I came on it was 2-2. My first touch of the football was from a free kick. I found myself free at the far post and headed it across the face of the goal, only for my team mate to knee the ball onto the cross bar from a metre out. Everyone told me it was a very Crouch like header (Peter Crouch is Liverpool's 6'8" striker). I also wore the number 6, which I hope to make my own this season. John Arne Riise is Liverpool's red headed left sided player and he wears 6. Now all I have to do is learn to kick 40 foot left footed drives.
Melissa and I went to a youth service last night. It got us both thinking. Melissa was so moved she went up to her old minister after the service and told him how greatful she was that he allowed her and the other young people the freedom to have a youth service where they could do that. She also quizzed him on his thoughts of having people preach a theology that you might not agree with (the service is ecumenical). It is something I think of regularly too. I am sure Melissa will blog about her experiences, so check out her blog for more of her thoughts.
But my thinking.
I love preaching. I love to preach and I love to hear a good preacher.
I struggle with the art of preaching. I struggle with its relevance for our Australian culture.
We are not a culture of orators, we are not a culture that sits and listens to people speaking.
In fact the art of public speaking is in such disarray in this country.
But what place does the preacher have in a relevant church today?
Preaching, even great preaching, doesn't bring about growth in congregations. It is no longer an effective tool for teaching and exhorting.
So what place does it hold?
Is it no longer relevant?
If it isn't relevant, then why would God still gift some of his people with the gifting of preaching (because they are out there)?
The young person who preached last night was preaching only his second ever sermon.
Now I have been there, I know what it is to learn the art of preaching by the only means possible, practice.
Looking back on some of my early sermons I shudder at what I said and how I said it.
This blog isn't about his sermon or how he preached it. He had some technical things to work on (put the lapel mic further down your shirt so we can't hear you breath) and his theological outlook will broaden with time (I hope and pray).
The sermon I heard last night was symptomatic of the state of sermons in the Australian (and I would guess the whole Western) chuch today. This preacher was preaching a sermon as obviously he had heard many times before. How can one person be blamed for the influence that has been pushed onto them by the broader Christian culture.
We started off without a bible reading.
Now I admit that I am an exegetical preacher, that is how I work and that is how I am wired. I also admit that that isn't the only type of sermon to preach.
However, even a topical sermon has to be based on a Bible passage, then moving outwards and drawing in other scripture references to work your topic and make your (or God's?) point.
But this sermon was preached with him making points and then backing them up with Bible references, one or two verses from somewhere within the New Testament (funny it was only the New Testament).
As far as a school or uni assignment, or any piece of persuasive writing goes this is the correct way to present your argument. But that is the point. How am I to distinguish God's voice from his voice? How am I to discern that what he is saying is divine, if he is just pulling points from selected, out of context, verses all across the New Testament.
This is symptomatic of the wider discussions of the church. We can't have a good theological discussion, because people select a single verse and use it for their own purposes (women keeping quiet in church anyone?).
He quoted from Hebrews, Acts, Paul's writings, the Pastoral Epistles and the Gospels as if they were all written by the same person and saying exactly the same thing. And all of it being said straight to me as a person sitting in that pew on that night.
Why do we as congregations accept this from our pulpits?
Why do we as congregations not demand more from our preachers?
Is it because we weren't really listening?
Is it because we really don't care?
Is it because we wouldn't know a good sermon or a good theological treatise even if it hit us right between the eyes?
My second problem with preaching today, which was displayed in this sermon last night.
A sermon which was on the topic of 'Standing up for God' turned into a sermon imploring me to be 'saved' for eternal life. At least he defined what his idea of being 'saved' was, which can be missing in so many evangelical sermons these days.
Why is it that when I walk into a church, quite regularly I am implored to give my soul to God and be saved to go to Heaven?
What about Holiness?
What am I supposed to do about this life?
Am I just meant to twiddle my thumbs till Jesus comes back for me, or I die?
Am I just here to 'save' other people so more people get to party with me in heaven (so they don't end up living forever in that other place)?
gee, I have had a huge rant.
I really was supposed to be doing some work.
But I would love to hear other's thoughts on this issue.
I would love to start a dialogue on the role of preaching, good preaching, in the church today.
Is it relevant at all, or are we too far past it?
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