Matthias Media has a magazine called The Briefing which I’m not sure how I got signed up for (Mark?) which had an interesting article this week called “The dangers of valuing preaching” which deserves some comment.
The article is badly titled because it should be “the dangers of our particular brand of ‘expository preaching’ ” (but of course that doesn’t have the punch their does). I would like the post a couple quotes however to illustrate his point:
1. A shift from content to form: “First, there is the danger of the focus moving gradually from the content onto the form of preaching itself…We work hard on our preaching, and we seek to develop the craft of giving better sermons for our people…the danger is that because we are still sinful people, we are constantly caught in a drift that seeks to reorient our focuse away from the divine and onto the human.”
2. A shift from vertical to horizontal: “It is the shift from the vertical to the merely horizontal in terms of our understanding of what is actually happening as we open up the Scriptures. Too easily we begin to think of Bible ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ as merely mutual edification along the horizontal axis. We forget the vertical axis. We forget the presence of the living God himself, whose word is not just being heard as if from a distance, but who is present by his Spirit and who is breathing out his living word as the Scriptures are opened today.”
3. A shift from the corporate to the individual: “In essence, of course, this is just another expression of the general shift from a God-centered, Kingdom-oriented mentality to the man-centered, self preoccupation that is the hallmark of our natural condition, and to which we constantly naturally regress if left unchecked by the correction of God’s word.”
Of course it is difficult to evaluate this article just based on the snippets I have included, but he brings up a topic I have thought on recently. Does the traditional craft of our preaching lend itself to a semi-pelagian view of sanctification? We are told to examine the text and get our points from the text and then corner the listener into making a decision for change. We are told to garner proper ‘applications’ from the text to give the listener something tangible to grasp, or to do. The problem with this seems to be that we forget that the Bible is primarily a revelation of God about himself and about ourselves and our relationship with him. The Bible is first a communique concerning the gospel. Shouldn’t our preaching instead be ‘vertical’ as Philip states it, that is the purpose of preaching is to exalt Christ and his work not our own efforts?
I think one of the issues Philips sees is that expository preaching has tended to focus strongly on what we should do rather than why or how. Are not the why/how questions answered by inner spiritual change which are wrought by the hearing of the word and the response of faith? Should we neglect the exaltation of God by preaching the gospel to preach a list of do’s and dont’s? God forbid.