Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back again, with thoughts on preaching and teaching with integrity.

My blog may begin to evolve into something more like a real blog. My previous blogs has been much more like mini-research papers than actual blogging. Hopefully they were beneficial for someone, but they were so very long that I suspect they took far longer to read than many of you had time for. My intention is to write shorter blogs and to write them more often. I'm not sure if I'll be any better. There is something within my nature to be long-winded and, quite frankly, in this format I don't care too much. I write for whoever wants to read and for myself. If I was preaching or writing for mass audiences I would have to care a lot more about being reader-friendly, but, alas, such is not the case.

My thought for today is about preaching and teaching with integrity. I was talking to my brother today (for the first time in about 7 months) and he was of the opinion that the Bible is not applicable to us, really at all. It was not written to us but to the Colossians, the Jews, the Ephesians, etc, etc.... He thinks preachers go off by even trying to apply the Bible to people it wasn't written to. I didn't really go much into answering him, not because I didn't have an answer but because I very much doubt he cares to hear what I think about it, but I understand and agree with some of his sentiments. It maddens me when preachers "rape" the Bible for the sake of finding suitable applications for their congregations. The more often I hear them abuse the Bible the more I feel the way my brother does. The sermon feels false and forced. It seems like the speaker is grasping to find some way to make it fit a contemporary context but you know that his application is really not legit.

When a pastor misuses the text for the sake of application, he is not only abusing the text of Scripture, he is substituting the Word of God for the words of Pastor "Fill-in-the-blank". I am sick of the words, "This isn't me saying it, but God, so if you have a problem take it up with him!" when it really isn't God's Word at all, just God's words twisted into someone's poorly constructed replica. Furthermore, if preaching really is going to be the center focus of our services, which it is in most cases, we are wasting a good chunk of time. I used to believe, because I HAD to in order to make it through some bad sermons, that I could get something out of any sermon, no matter how awful. I don't believe that anymore. If people are misrepresenting God's word, let's not try and twist it into something positive!

Why does this happen? Does it happen because it's impossible to apply 2000-4000 year old texts to the twenty-first century? No, it happens because we're either lazy or without integrity. It is much harder work to construct a good sermon than most people think. If it's easy, then you aren't doing it right. It's not easy to analyze the social and political context of the Ephesian church, the literary context of Ephesians 5-6, our own political and social context and apply properly and carefully discern principles relating to husbands, wives, children, slaves, and masters. Pastors often make it look easy, not because they're good, but because they're lazy.

Other times this happens because they lack integrity. They push their predetermined political or societal views on how they think things should be on the text. If they are republicans, they magically find anti-welfare, pro-gun, anti-big government, pro-capitalism, anti-Obama passages. If they are democrats, they somehow manage to find anti-capitalism, pro-labor, anti-gun, and pro-welfare passages. If a pastor doesn't like drinking or cussing, he will find ways to present the text as anti-drinking or cussing. You get the point. This is a lack of integrity. It doesn't deal honestly with the Word of God but uses, abuses, and rapes the text.

In defense of pastors and preachers and teachers, it is hard work. Pastors have a lot on their plate and it's hard to get everything just right. It will often be impossible to be sure on what exactly the text is saying and thus extract the right principles. I'm not asking for perfection, just integrity. If a text is difficult to understand and there are several possible views, BE HONEST and say so instead of pretending that you have it all figured out. If you demonstrate how much work you put into getting it right, perhaps that will help others to understand that they too need to read their bibles slowly and carefully. Perhaps it will show others how important it is to get the Word of God right. Expressing absolute confidence when you do not have absolute confidence is not rendering a service to people, it is an extreme disservice.

I'm sorry my first post back was so negative. Maybe next post will find me in a happier mood.


Sabrina said...

so, I like this, but are you going to finish the baptist series? If I remember correctly, you left us hanging.

Anonymous said...

i like this post. i like that you have decided to try a different format too. i have a few people in mind who should really read this, but like your brother, i don't know if they'd really care, or really be influenced by anything in it. oh well...that's life, i guess.

to add to bri's question, you also stopped on the animal series. sheesh, if you finished anything you started, i wouldn't know what to do with myself. ;-)

faithbornfromdoubt said...

Tell you what...

I will finish the Baptist series but I request forgiveness for the remainder of the unfinished series.

I also fully intend on returning to my "Apology of Hell" story even though that was a long time ago. I just haven't had the creative writing bug in awhile. When it comes back, that comes back.

Sabrina said...

I can live with that.

theone withabeard said...

Dr. Willsey warned you in Hermeneutics that seminary was going to ruin a lot of sermons for you. But then, you came back angry from convo at Liberty all the time.

Shorter format will probably get quicker responses out of me. In honor of you, my last post was pretty long. Maybe we're trading places.

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul