We are continuing our consideration of an article by David Fitch, “3 Myths About Preaching Today,” posted in “Out of Ur.”
The Kind of Preaching We Desperately Need
The task of preaching is to proclaim truth. It is the moment that brings the truth into the present. Much like anamnesis [remembrance] in the Lord’s Supper is much more than intellectual recall of the Lord’s death and resurrection, so preaching is more than recalling and teaching information from the past about God. Preaching is a speech-act. It is the proclaiming of the truth out of Scripture over us so as to bring the truth into being by the Spirit.
Preaching is a truth making event—not in the sense that the truth is invented here, but that the Spirit, through the gifts, brings it into reality. (I’ll have to defend myself against the accusation that I’m a Bultmannian sometime). Much like Jesus said in Luke chapter 4:21 – “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in its hearing,” proclamation is a speaking forth of an interpretation (from Scripture) of our lives in terms of who God is, the gospel and what he is doing to bring it about in our lives and thru us into the world. If anything then, far from trying to make the Scriptures relevant, the goal of preaching is to make everything else irrelevant. It is the re-narrating of ourselves corporately into God.
The bottom line is once we preach for formation, where God’s truth is birthed in and among us, we become shaped for his mission in the world. We can see things we didn’t see before. We act out of assumptions we didn’t have before. We imagine what God is doing in ways not possible before. And a little congregation becomes a powder-keg for mission and the harvesting of fields ready for the gospel.
“Relevant” is usually used in the sense of making scriptures apply to our daily lives, right? This is backwards. We should make our daily lives apply to the scriptures. That is, our daily lives need to proclaim the same truths as the scriptures. Rather than the scriptures being for our help, we need to be for God’s help, so that we speak to a hurting and dying world through our lives. And preaching should help us do that.
Hence, great preaching is not telling us how the Bible teaches great lessons on personal finance or how to fight depression. Great preaching is equipping us to be Jesus to the world. And if we are Jesus to the world, we’ll help each other fight depression and fix our household finances. But Jesus didn’t save us so we’d hire preachers to teach self-help lessons. He saved us to become servants.
And if we have visitors, they’ll be impressed by a gospel that isn’t about bigger buildings and a bigger church and meeting the felt needs of the congregation. Rather, the real gospel, the one that turned the world upside down and can do it again, is about conforming ourselves and all that we touch to the will of God — the God who loved the world so much he died for it.