Preaching: Myth 3

We are continuing our consideration of an article by David Fitch, “3 Myths About Preaching Today,” posted in “Out of Ur.”

MYTH 3: The Goal of Preaching is to Make the Bible Relevant

We pastors, who are at the end of our wits in the fields of post-Christendom, will often try to make our preaching more relevant. Caught between the winds of the Neo-Reformed who argue “we just need to preach the truth and they will come,” and the mega church gurus who argue that “we need to make the Bible relevant,” we make a last ditch effort to do the latter (because we’ve already tried the former). Sadly however, this is a Christendom attitude that attempts to pull in the Christendom leftovers with a more updated gospel ready made to fit their already Christianized lives. As more and more churches try to “out relevant” one another and the leftovers of Christendom become anesthetized to relevancy, “making the Bible more relevant” is revealed as yet another dying myth in post-Christendom.

This one is a hard pill to swallow. I mean, do we make the Bible less relevant? Isn’t it critical that the preacher help us apply the Bible to our daily lives? Do we instead preach on the 78 theories of what the Daniel prophecies really mean? On preterism? Supralapsarianism? (I just think that’s a word that begs for parody …)

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to Preaching: Myth 3

  1. nick gill says:

    I understand what he's saying, though — relevancy is not *the goal* but rather a means to the goal of equipping the saints for the work of ministry.

  2. Todd Collier says:

    I have to ask what he means by making it relevant. Does he mean "relevant" as to utilizing the latest methods and illustrations or relevant as to how the Sermon on the Mount applies to the life of the average twenty-something in 2010? I can see the former as less important and have seen and, yes, participated in a bit too many abuses of it myself. But the latter seems indispensable to bringing people to Jesus and helping them realize the image of Christ in their lives. I would also ask how this "myth" rubs up against Paul's being "all thing to all men." No one could have worked harder to be as relevant to the audience as Paul did.

  3. Kyle says:

    I'm not sure he's talking against the practice of applying the Bible. I think he is more likely arguing against sermons that water down the gospel in order to be seen as hip, cool or whatever adjective you choose to use. Perhaps he is more arguing against preachers who have essentially bewcome Sunday Morning comedy acts with Jesus as an after thought. Or sermons that are too neutered down, to avoid upsetting people, but don't successfully declare anything.

  4. Todd Collier says:

    That would make sense. But again, as with all of these myths their mistaken application can be seen throughout most of the history of the church. Of course one we haven't seen yet is that "what works is what works and we need to stick with that." There has been at least one period in church history when the powers that be decided that so-in-so had the best and most effective sermons and so everyone needed to emulate them – sometimes word for word.

    The use of humor is quite a balancing act. The right amount can make the lesson sing and drive the points deep into the hearer's memory. Too little and the preaching becomes wooden and empty, too much and the Gospel is stripped of its relevance.

    The true lost art today is the display of righteous anger. Very few of our modern church goers will tolerate a message with an edge. And yet so much of the "relevant" preaching in the Bible is both humorous and edgy.

    ramble, ramble, ramble…

  5. I think a lot of the challenges of preaching would be answeredsimply by preaching Christ.

    I have an increasingly annoying habit of saying "People who don't know Jesus need to, and the rest of us never get tired of hearing about him."

    You want to hear a crazy idea? Spend some time preaching. (Christ, of course.) Then spend some time teaching. Take questions. Answer them. You know; just like they did at ACU's Summit this week. Then celebrate the Lord's supper together, enriched either by good answers or a conviction that God's mysteries are deep and perfect.

  6. Alan says:

    Should we seek relevance? Depends on what you mean by that.

    The more the message of the church reflects the values of the unchurched, the less relevant the church is. When a church is just like the world, there is no compelling reason to be a member of that church. Such a church is irrelevant. OTOH, if the message of the church dramatically changes my life, it is highly relevant.

    Not coincidentally, the scriptures define a lifestyle and a moral standard that is in stark contrast to the world. The church needs to preach that other-worldly message — a message of living free from greed and materialism; a message of love for our enemies; a message of unrivaled devotion to God. And the church needs to live out that message, in a way that people can see our lives and can see the difference that it makes when you live that way. That's how we make the gospel attractive — we show that it works where the world's wisdom does not. That's the kind of relevance we need.

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