Old Doxoblogy

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Is Relevant Preaching?

As most of you know, I received this invitation in the mail last week. There were two statements (apart from the whole issue of motives and general irreverence of the invitation) that bothered me. The first statement was "music written this century". That was yesterday's post.
The next statement that really bothered me immediately followed the first...
"messages that are relevant for your daily life".

If I didn't know what this meant, I would probably be fine with it. After all, the Gospel is relevant for our daily lives! But that is not what is really meant by 'relevance'. 'Relevance' in this context is a 'how-to' seminar. 'Relevance' reduces God's self-revelation, that is Scripture, to a guide for successful living. Forget the Biblical account of Creation, just be creative! Forget the years of slavery in Egypt, make the best of your circumstances! Forget the Law, set your own goals! Forget the life of Christ, just ask yourself what He would do if He were here today. Such is the mindset of 'relevance'. Throw out whatever does not inspire you, build your self-esteem, or strike your fancy. If it's not 'relevant' to your individual life, then it is worthless. Could someone please tell me the practical difference between this treatment of Scripture by the 'conservatives' in the modern day SBC and the liberal preaching of the SBC in years gone by? I don't think there is much difference at all. At least the liberals were honest about their view of Scripture. The 'conservatives' say that they believe it as they wave their copy of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, but they refuse to preach it.
But that is the one thing that we cannot do as Christians. We cannot throw out any of Scripture because all of Scripture is relevant. We are a people of the book. That book tells me all I need to know about God. That book tells me all I need to know for life and godliness. That book tells me all I need to know about me. What is more relevant than that?

So then, what is truly relevant preaching? Truly relevant preaching is preaching that takes what God's Word says we need over our 'felt needs'. Relevant preaching will take a text of Scripture and tell me what God says to me in that text, not just a 'life principle'. Relevant preaching is not a topical menagerie of happy stories, but a solemn declaring of the Word of the Lord. Relevant preaching will tell me how I should live in light of what God had revealed about Himself, in light of the Cross, in light of Christ's return. Relevant preaching is consistently expositional, theological, and always practical. But first and foremost, relevant preaching is always Gospel preaching.
There is no other message in the world that can compare to the relevance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to hell-bound sinners. This is what we need. We need to be told that we are sinners. We need to be told that God is Holy, Holy, Holy. We need to be told that God sent His Son into the world to die the death of a criminal. We need to be told that we are the criminals that Christ died in the place of. We need to be told that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. We need to be told that the Comforter has come who guides us into all truth. We need to be told that a holy life is God's goal in each one of us individually. We need to be told that our chief purpose in life, death, and the hereafter is loving God and enjoying Him forever.
Which part of our lives will not be affected by this message? Your marriage? The Gospel can fix that. Your finances? The Gospel can order them. Your vocation? The Gospel can lead you.

God has spoken, not to our felt needs, but to our real, most basic, and deepest needs. He has spoken to saint and sinner alike. And we must respond to that revelation of Himself.


David said...

You are right on! As a pastor, I have heard that type of comment until I am sick. "We need relevant preaching." or "you are a good preacher, but I am just not getting fed." I finally told one person. "If I am faithfully laying the 'Bread of Life' before you and you refuse to eat, don't blame me." The Church is responsible to preach God's Word, not the fad or feeling of the moment. God knows what is best for us and he will and has addressed what we need in the Scriptures.

Keep on listening to your "irrelevant" sermons, it is like Daniel's vegetables (Daniel 1:12) to your soul.

D.J. Cimino said...

Alot of emergent churches take pop/rock songs and try to disect them to find any "spiritual" meaning in the song. Once they do they throw out a few verses and talk about how the singer must be on the verge to coming to God. They do this instead of "preach the Word".

They call this relevant.

I call it suicide.

Daniel Calle said...

This week is preaching week in my new blog.

Joe said...

I SO agree with you.

We must be as relevant as Jesus was, is and will be.

Good "topical" preaching is so rare because it is so hard to do.

All topical preaching must be topics demanded by scripture, not our perceptions of societal needs.

As for me and my house, we prefer exogetical preaching.

kec said...

Man is this ever a topic I struggle with.

I'm attending a service currently that bills itself, gladly and proudly, as "relevant." After one of our first visits, in November, where the sermon series was on the church's core values, I wrote an article to a group of friends noting that the pastor could substitute "entertaining" for relevant and would have the same sermon.

But, for complex reasons, we've stayed. And although I struggle with some aspects of the church, I wonder if what I'm getting is the same "relevance" that is so villified on the 'net. If you're willing, I'd love to have you take a listen to a recent sermon, here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/gethope.

Jeremy Weaver said...

My computer is so slow at home that I can't really do audio. I will say however, that if your Pastor preaches the Bible, then you've got a rare treasure. If he exegetes the Bible, then he's one in a million.