I’ve talked to Jeremy about frustrations with the status quo within the church. There do seem to be people who have sat in the pew for years and have not grown a bit. I, and you (I’m sure) are always in danger of entering this state, the status quo. And we look for answers to challenge this attitude. We look into music, programs etc. Something just struck me today. The reason people don’t progress beyond the basic “don’ts” may be because of our preaching. I always hear people talk about Puritan preaching and its piercing ability to dive into the depths of ones heart and reveal the most remote stronghold of spiritual blindness. I don’t think I’ve ever really realized what that would look like. What if our preaching cut the very core of our hearts? What if it was specific enough to accomplish its purpose? We’re really not very good prognosticators of the deceits of our hearts, are we?
6 thoughts on “Pointed Preaching”
Matt, I think part of this comes down to prayer and persecution, not necessarily more pointed preaching. I agree that we need to identify real sins that our people are dealing with, not just generic ones. I really love Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Idols of the Heart that touches on the sins of our hearts in very personal ways.However, in my opinion, application is such touchy business. If you apply a principle too pointedly, people will think “I don’t have that problem” and will dismiss your message. If you give little or no direct application, people will (because of the lying nature of our hearts) overlook their specific sins. I think the Holy Spirit can use the Word of God in many different ways to convict us of sin. The problem, obviously, is that the people in our churches are not in the Word and have no passion for the Word. Trials can sometimes drive us back to the Word. I guess we can pray that for the carnal people in our churches, or maybe we should pray for more persecution.
You may be right about persecution and prayer. I think especially about how so many people can hear one message and get completely different applications from it. The Holy Spirit’s work cannot be underestimated. However, I guess when I say pointed I mean something I little different than you are thinking. I’m thinking of Screwtape Letters. Do you follow me? I don’t know if I really am a student of the sin nature. Do I really know it’s deceits? Point in case, when discipling someone a person can more easily see areas of spiritual weakness than that person might see. Say in the area of selfishness. Someone might not see how feeling worthless and depressed may be an example of extreme selfishness. But pointed application might help them to see how the heart might be decietful in that way. I mentioned it earlier, but it seemed like the puritans were more astute with regard to our sin nature. And sometimes just being aware of our sin is such a large step. There have been probably 10 moments in my life where God used preaching to expose an area of sin or pride that I had not known. The last time, God used C.J. Maheny’s testimony is his battle with pride to show me mine. I understood when he described his heart condition; I saw mine.
Perhaps the issue is not so much our lack of pointed application, but the sense that our preaching so often loses sight of Christ and the cross. Often, I think that the text of the Scripture becomes a launching point into a series of applications which, though valid, simply don’t point us back to Christ. Applicaiton to change without recognizing the centrality of Christ in the text of Scripture is like screaming at a car to run without putting in the fuel. We don’t need more pointed applications which alter our moral fiber, but don’t increase love for Christ. So perhaps the prayer for our churches shouldn’t so much be for carnality to cease or persecution to arise, but instead, we should pray like Paul in Ephesians 3 — “That Christ may dwell in your hears through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Matt, I think you’re on to something with Screwtape. I haven’t read enough good stories to be a very good judge of sin’s deceits. That is the magnificence of stories – they take us out of the ‘preached to’ and make us feel as we ought about the virtues and vices of the people in the story. I think music has this power as well – to dispose our affections (or ‘heart’) to feel properly about good and evil (and beauty and ugliness, as the aesthetics conversation would go). Why do we get most of our bible in the form of stories? I think there’s something to that.
btw – am I welcome to comment?
Jesse, good to hear from you. I don’t think we had yet considered that question. I think for now I don’t see why we would close the comments. But if in the future we decide to do so, don’t take it the wrong way. I can see benefits of both approaches.