A Plea from the Pew

In the foreword to The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative by Steve Mathewson (a text for Hom. 1, great so far!), Haddon Robinson wrote, “The more committed we are to the auhority of Scripture, the more dangerous it is to read narratives incorrectly. There is no greater abuse of the Bible than to proclaim in God’s name what God is not saying. God commands us not to bear false witness” (page 12). Wow! I couldn’t have said it better.

While I was in college, we a had an emotionally charged (though content-challenged) chapel speaker that stirred up questions among the students. Actually, we had a lot of those. This particular speaker provoked a somewhat negative response from many students. The answer given to these concerned students was that the college intentionally invited speakers of various styles to broaden our ability to listen. This person said something like this: “Some speakers preach to emotion, some to the intellect, some to the will. We want you to be able to appreciate all kinds.” I about blew up! This is the same institution (which I love) that so often proclaimed that God-honoring music must be balanced emotionally, intellectually, and phsyically. “Unbalanced music does not reflect the character of God.” (or something like that). If there are such standards for music, should not the standards for the proclamation God’s Word be even higher? Why are there so many standards for music, but a preacher can be applauded for molesting emotions and manipulating the will with absolutely no intellectual or biblical basis? Why will some individuals who would walk out of a service if the music was offensive, but “Amen!” a speaker who perverts the word of God, simply because they’re a leader in a conservative church, mission agency, or institution? If someone said that a particular speaker I am not saying that there are no standards for music. Nor do I believe that every traditional church has bad preaching or vica versa. I simply think both music and preaching ought to be held to higher standards.

So my question is: What might that “standard” look like?

8 thoughts on “A Plea from the Pew”

  1. As far as emotional manipulation, I don’t know what to say. How do you judge? My dad has often told me that as a pastor he’s learned the art of emotional manipulation and he wants nothing to do with it. But on the other hand I pray that the cross of Christ touches me in such a way that I do weep… So anyone else?

  2. Dr. Bauder has a good idea: http://www.sharperiron.org/2006/06/16/preaching-worth-listening-to/I'm finding that the right way to think about music “standards” is quite similar to the right way of thinking about preaching “standards”. One way to judge is to ask, are the emotions appropriate to the truth communicated? “Sentimentality” is the disproportionate emotional response to any communicated truth, be it to little of an emotional response or too much. I like what Bauder says about the imagination and its role in preaching.

  3. I agree with you here Jesse. The emotion should be parallel with the truth. We shouldn’t resort to emotional manipulation, or working up the emotions in order to feel emotional, but an emotional response to truth is quite appropriate. In fact, with all the passages that both appeal to and involve the emotions in the Bible, I wonder if it is actually disobedient to attempt to stifle them too much.

  4. Perhaps part of this issue is that we have been exposed at one time or another to a type of Biblical preaching which appropriately dealt with the text of Scripture and our emotion was raised. This was right and good. However, the tendency is to seek to reproduce that end expression of emotion through inappropriate means and then seek to justify the means (Manipulation) by the end (Emotion). Classic bad pragmatism.

  5. I liked Bauder’s article. Well thought out and articulated (as usual). Although I couldn’t help but think at the point where he was talking about the preacher manufacturing emotion by standing on the pulpit or waving a hanky, that I might know some people who would do things such as that in earnestness… I think the heart’s motivation is an issue here. But as Zach was communicating, there shouldn’t be a false dichotomy, some preaching is to the heart and some to the head. As Bauder says, application and content go hand in hand.

  6. Try this one on for size: When I was studying with Pastor Rich, he outlined his basic “philosophy” of preaching as: 1)begin analytical – what is said; 2) end authorial – why did he say it; 3) avoid application. Number three really gets people. They say, “Without application it can’t be preaching!” However, anyone that hears Pastor Rich knows that it is full of “application.” It’s just not, “Read more, pray more, witness more, give more, don’t listen to CCM, or dress for success” applications. What is the appropriate way to “apply” the text?

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