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Posts Tagged ‘Poor Preaching

The Seeker Church Lectionary

Its’ February so you know what that means from the seeker/relevant/postmodern churches don’t you?  It means that the lectionary points them to preach goofy sermon series’ on sex and marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, we should address these issues when the Bible does address them.  If you preach verse-by-verse through the Bible, you will no doubt have to deal with the issues of sex and marriage often.  The Bible is full of stories about these issues and much in the New Testament deals with this as disciples of Jesus.  Yet the seeker churches always will be found preaching on these subjects during this month because of Valentine’s day (and to draw a crowd which is the bottom line).

One need not think too hard to figure out the seeker church lectionary.  Typically the lectionary will point to the Christian calendar and will have the Bible teacher teach lessons around the season.  If we are nearing Resurrection Sunday, the lectionary would have you preach on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  If we are nearing Christmas, the lectionary would have you preach on the incarnation of God.  The lectionary was created to keep the focus on the Bible.  While I don’t use a lectionary, I appreciate seeking to keep the church focused on biblical truths throughout the year.  The seeker lectionary, however, doesn’t revolve around the Bible nor the Christian calendar.  It revolves around the culture and around the cultural calendar.  I will grant that the American culture calendar does revolve around many Christian holidays but the seeker lectionary revolves around the culture and especially the worldly-minded culture (notice the John Bunyan reference).  I’m not sure who sets the seeker lectionary anymore.  In the 1990’s it was Willow Creek and Bill Hybels.  In the early 2000’s it was Rick Warren and Purpose-driven Church.  In the mid 2000’s it turned toward the emergent movement but has seen swayed from them (thank the Lord as the emergents are now full-blown liberals and out of the “evangelical” camp).  I would say, if I had to guess, that Andy Stanley plays a big role in the lectionary but he is not the only one.

In our town I have noticed that the seeker churches are preaching on sex this month but using the wicked “Fifty shades of grey” movie to help.  Again, notice that the Bible does not take focus here.  The focus in not the text of Scripture.  The focus is always on the shock value of sex.  Sex sells in our wicked culture.  It’s one of the top reasons that I don’t own nor watch TV.  Sex fills our culture.  If you want to draw a worldly crowd preach on what they want most: sex, money, and pleasure.  The idols of sex and sports are the two biggest I know of among men.  The men at my work live and breathe for sex and sports.  Their lives revolve around those two issues.  Pleasure is in there as well with all their “toys” such as motorcycles and other things (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

What is the faithful disciple to do?  How do we react to the seeker lectionary or our culture?

First, be faithful to God.  Don’t bother trying to make friends with the world (James 4:4).  Don’t bother trying to appease the world.  It will never happen.  If you truly follow Jesus, if you truly preach repentance, if you truly love Jesus above all others and all things, the world will despise you (John 15:18-25; 1 Peter 4:12-19; 1 John 2:15-17).  The world will never love the disciple of Jesus nor the disciple of Jesus loving the world.  The two are at war with each other (Ephesians 6:12).

Secondly, be faithful to preach the Word of God.  Leonard Ravenhill use to tell the young men who came to him for advice on preaching to read 1 and 2 Timothy each month.  Ravenhill believed that we must heed the words of Paul the Apostle in 1 and 2 Timothy in this sinful world that we find ourselves preaching in and to.  I recommend expository teaching.  Expository preaching avoids goofy sermon series’ and is faithful to teach the text.  The focus in expository preaching is on the Word of God and its full authority.  Expository preaching takes very seriously the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28:20 and the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2.  I recommend reading this book on expository preaching.

Thirdly, address the issues of sex, money, greed, power, etc. as the text dictates and not the culture.  Don’t allow the culture to determine your Bible teaching.  Remember our focus must be on exalting Christ and His kingdom.  We are here to preach Him (2 Corinthians 4:5).  We are to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and our focus is on that one issue.  We are called to be faithful to the One who saved us.  The culture should not drive our Bible teaching.  The text of Scripture should.  If the topics come up in your text, deal with them.  If they don’t, deal with what you have at hand.  Be text driven by the words given to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by the culture.

Lastly, the bottom line for me is faithfulness to the King.  Jesus said that He would judge us based on faithfulness or unfaithfulness (Matthew 25:29-30).  Paul told Timothy to appoint faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).  Faithfulness is the key.  God is not looking for talented men.  He is not looking for culturally relevant men.  He is looking for faithful men to proclaim His Word.  I want to be found faithful.  I don’t care if the world finds me odd.  I don’t care if people make fun of me for preaching on the streets or for calling people to repent.  I don’t care if people bash me for standing in front of abortion clinics to call the women to repentance.  I don’t care if the world ignores me.  I want to be faithful the King.  He is the One who saves sinners in the first place (John 1:12-13; 6:44).  My job is to lift Him up (John 12:32)!

May the Lord help us to be found faithful.

Why Pragmatism Reigns in the Modern Western Church

Pragmatism is the notion that meaning or worth are determined by practical consequences.  If a church has large numbers because of its programs, its rock band “worship” team, its shallow preaching, its non-doctrinal position, then it is deemed good.  If a church is the opposite with a focus on preaching, on prayer, on confrontational evangelism, on preaching against sin, on confronting sin in the camp, or singing songs that are doctrinally sound and God-exalting, then it is deemed bad (but only if the numbers are low).  In our day, success is viewed in size terms and behind the scenes with money.

In the Bible, faithfulness is placed above success.  After all, many in the Bible where not successful but they were faithful.  Even Jesus, who once had the crowds following Him until He began to preach the radical demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35; John 6:60-66), must be viewed as a “failure” according to modern church growth and seeker sensitive churches yet His disciples turned the world upside down with the gospel.  Paul died a lonely man in prison (2 Timothy 4:16-17) but he was faithful (2 Timothy 4:18).  Noah preached the judgment of God to his generation but he only saw his family repent and believe and were saved from God’s judgment (1 Peter 3:20) yet Noah was faithful.

The fact is that Jesus said He would welcome faithful disciples into His everlasting kingdom (Matthew 25:21).  Faithfulness is what God is after.  Faithfulness to His Word.  Faithfulness to the gospel.  Faithfulness to follow Christ no matter what.  Sadly, few want this today.

The modern church wants success.  Preachers (if you can call them this for they are not preaching the Bible but only proof-texting from it) are out for power and control.  The drive is to be bigger, to be bolder, to out-do the other guy.  The competition among pastors is gross.  The drive for more money and power seems to drive them.  Pastors today rally around methodology and not theology.  Theology is not even a serious issue.  This is why seeker churches have no trouble modeling this guy or that guy with no thought to their theology.  They are willing to embrace whoever because of pragmatism.  I remember having a conversation once with a pastor about the modalist, TD Jakes, in which he defended Jakes not by looking at his theology but his “anointing” and his numbers.  How could we reject Jakes when it is clear that God is using him?  This is pragmatism.

In the modern pragmatic church, numbers often equal success.  Larger numbers equals more money.  More money equals more programs and bigger buildings.  But what you win them with is what you win them to.  This is why seeker churches are doctrinally shallow.  This is why I consistently meet lost sinners who know nothing of the gospel but claim to be members of such and such seeker church.  This is why you can meet a “youth pastor” on the street and ask him to explain to you how to become a disciple of Jesus and he has no clue.  His entire outlook is pragmatic.

This is why pragmatic churches deplore churches that are Christ-centered and Christ-exalting.  While seeker churches give lip service to Jesus, Jesus is used as a means to an end.  They use Jesus to lure the people into their promise that He will give them a better life now, that He will give them hope.  They fail to mention that the “seeker” is a lost sinner who needs to repent.  They fail to mention that the “seeker” is an enemy of God apart from faith in Christ (Romans 5:10).  They fail to tell “seekers” that they must turn from their wicked ways and turn to Christ alone and completely for eternal salvation.  Instead, they preach a Jesus who is just this cool, hip, shallow guy who loved them so much He died for them.  But they ignore why He had to die.  They ignore the fact that Jesus died for our sins and that it was our sins that brought the wrath of God down upon His Son (John 3:36; Galatians 1:4).

Pragmatic churches are perfect for this “selfie” generation.  It’s all about me.  It’s not about the wrath of God.  It’s not about the holy law of God.  It’s not about the coming judgment of God.  It’s not about eternal damnation.  It’s about my best life now.  This is what counts and this is what matters.  And this preaching gets results.  This preaching gets numbers and power and money.  The preaching of the cross gets you one thing: a cross.

Yet Jesus warned us in Luke 6:26: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

My earnest prayer is that the Church would rise up and cast off the gimmicks of this world.  Cast off cheap “Christian” music that doesn’t exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and declare His glory.  Cast off shallow preaching for expository preaching that is biblically focused.  Cast off dead prayer meetings that don’t truly seek God while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6).  Cast off friendship evangelism that is the evangelical copout for not preaching the gospel to the lost but instead declare the gospel to the sinners.  Cast off churches that are focused on pragmatism and lack any doctrinal preaching, any doctrinal discernment.  Instead, love the truth and defend it (Jude 3-4).

I urge you to pray.  Pray for the Church.  Pray against pragmatism.  Pray for God to raise up godly leaders who will preach the gospel with no focus on being men-pleasers (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).  Pray for a revival of expository preaching in our age.  Pray for the Lord to glorify His name in His Church just as He has promised He would (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:21).  Pray for sinners to repent of their sins and turn to Christ in true repentance and faith (Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-6).  I urge you to pray (Luke 18:1)!

Counseling and Cheerleading Preaching

I’ve noticed that a trend among evangelical preaching now is to counsel from the pulpit.  No matter what the topic may be (and typically this is topical preaching), the preacher uses the pulpit to counsel the sheep.  The preacher will even do entire series’ on subjects and will use each of them to counsel the people on how to overcome their addictions, their poor self-esteem, their lack of trust in God, their poverty complex, their apathy over social ills, etc.

Counseling preaching seeks to help everyone with their problems but it ignores the major issue with people: their sins.  Further, it fails to truly teach the gospel of the finished work of Christ and point people to him.  Instead, counseling preaching points people to the preacher (as the counselor) and themselves (as they client).  They are always looking to flesh and not to Christ.  Christ is used only to “help” them.  He becomes their great helper, their divine healer.  But Christ is not exalted this way.  He is not glorified in this manner.  Who He is and what He has done is either ignored or a side issue because the main issue is helping the hurting person overcome their hurts.  I am tempted to call this, “Heal my boo boo’s” preaching.

The other type of preaching I find prominent today is cheerleading preaching.  This is camp meeting style preaching where the preacher uses phrases over and over again to get the crowd pumped up.  “Gotta get you excited so you can make it one more week as a Christian.”  The preacher speaks as if the people are on the very cliff of apostasy and he sees it as his job to get them to hang on just one more week!  So this preacher takes his text and usually has some hyped up points in there.  He usually lifts up his voice to almost a yell (like a good cheerleader would do) and tries to get the people just as excited about God as he is.  Hopefully this excitement will carry the people through just one more time before they collapse from despair.

In both cases, these type of preaching styles fail to be theological (because it would defeat their purpose) and both fail to teach the Bible.  Both would proudly say that they used the Bible and quoted often from the Bible (topical sermons have a way of doing that) but they fail to explain the Scriptures.  This is what the main goal of the Bible teacher should be: to explain the Bible.  In the process of explaining the Bible, we lift up the gospel of Christ so that both sinners (who need Christ for salvation) and disciples (who need Jesus always for salvation as well) are pointed to Christ alone.  The Bible teacher is not there to lift up themselves (topical preachers have a tendency to tell many stories about themselves I have noticed) nor to make the people of God feel good.  Our job is singular in focus: to explain the Bible.  What does the Bible mean?

This theological desert that we find among the evangelical landscape has caused many problems.  Of course the major issue is the doctrine of God is attacked.  People are creating a god in their own image these days that looks nothing like the biblical God.  Further, precious doctrines such as the person and work of Christ or the Holy Spirit are under attacked and abused.  The doctrine of the Trinity is ignored.  Precious doctrines such as justification by faith is misunderstood or summed up with “the sinner’s prayer.”  The Bible itself is challenged and there are none to defend it because who knows what it means?

Cults prey upon evangelicals as well.  The lack of doctrinal discernment leads to people not knowing what they believe or why they believe and so they fall prey to cults who give them pat answers to their theological questions about God, heaven or hell, salvation, etc.

This also leads to very poor books such as Heaven is for Real being welcomed and praised by evangelicals.  Rather than knowing what the Bible teaches about heaven, evangelicals blindly accept what a 6-year-old boy says about heaven.  Blogger Tim Challies calls this the “I Went To Heaven” books.  There are so many “I went to heaven” books out there one can hardly count.  Why is this happening?  Because people are not being taught the Word of God and people don’t know what the Bible already says about heaven so they turn to visions, dreams, angels, other religions, etc. to find out what heaven is like.

When I read the sermons of greats like the Puritans, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spugeon, or even Arminius or Calvin I am struck by their depth of the word of God.  Their passion is to exalt Christ.  As Spurgeon famously stated, “I take my text and then make a bee line to the cross.”  Jesus is the center of Scripture.  Not us.  The entire Word of God is focused primarily on one person: the Lord Jesus Christ.  John 20:31 and 1 John 5:13 are clear: the focus is on Jesus.  Hebrews 1:1-4 speaks to this fact as well:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Christ is the One that Scripture ultimately exalts and this should be the cry of the Church as well.  After all, Jesus is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18).  Jesus is the only one who can wash away our sins (John 14:6; Hebrews 9:27-28).  Jesus is the only one by whom we are able to pray and God hears our prayers (John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15).

In closing, I know that some will read this and cry that their seeker sensitive, topical preacher does exalt Christ.  And how I might ask?  I suppose they would say that he mentions Jesus “a lot!” and that Jesus is always presented as our friend and the one that we are to trust in for salvation.  I am thankful that Jesus is spoken of as our Savior but the reality is that He is more than that!  He is Lord and God (John 20:28).  The depths of who He is is not explored.  One need only read the works of Stephen Charnock to see that the modern church is largely lacking in exploring the depths of the God’s Word about Christ nor are we truly explaining what Scripture means to people.  In the end, we are failing to exalt Christ.  May the Lord change this for His glory.

Just Some Notes About Seeker Sensitive Churches

I get curious about churches in our area from time to time and so I check out their websites to see what they are up to.  Most of the churches I look at are seeker sensitive churches though they might not actually call themselves this.  Most of them would claim that they are simply trying to be “relevant” to the culture around them.  I have never fully grasped this concept.  Whether it was people in the days of the Apostles or today, people do not love God (Romans 3:10) and most hate Him and despite Him (Romans 1:18-32).  People love their sin (Psalm 10:11).  There you go.  I just saved you thousands of dollars you would spend trying to figure out what your culture wants and there it is.

But some of the curious things I noticed about the seeker churches I browsed.

  1. They all like to preach in series forms.  Usually the sermon series must have a cool title like “CHRISTmyths” or “Redeemed.”  Cool, catchy, one word titles are the favorites.
  2. None were expository sermons.  Some are book based such as “Run” based on Jonah.  Some are character based such as “No Shave November” based on John the Baptist.  Most were sermon series’ on topics such as sex or marriage or finances.
  3. All the videos I watched either began with a video clip or the preacher trying to warm up the crowd with jokes.
  4. While I don’t personally care how the Bible teacher dresses as much as I am concerned about his content, all were dressed in jeans (one guy in skinny jeans) and mainly t-shirts.  Holding a bottled water or a coffee cup was a favorite too.
  5. All had contemporary music.  None sang hymns.
  6. The “teachers” (and I put them in parenthesis because they didn’t really teach but just talk) usually bounced around a good bit when using Bible verses.  None were explained.
  7. Illustrations were the bulk of the sermons.  Lots of opinions given.  Lots of stories.  Little to no Bible.  The sermons were big on application but not theology at all.
  8. The most common Bible translation was either the NIV or the NLT.  One guy preached from The Message.
  9. The “call” to salvation was usually the sinner’s prayer or just a “Jesus wants to be your best friend and give you hope” type of call to salvation.  Not one mentioned repentance.  None mentioned baptism.  None mentioned forsaking sin.  None mentioned holiness.
  10. For this, I must admit that I only watched five sermons.  That was enough for me.  Blah!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/19/2013 at 9:45 PM

Christ Alone Saves Us From the Wrath of God

Dr. John MacArthur recently pointed out that the modern Church today is failing because she is not preaching the truth.  She is preaching that God wants to bless you, that He wants to give you joy and happiness, that He wants to meet all your needs and prosper you, that He will never allow any harm to come your way.  This false message has created thousands (if not millions) of false converts as people to Christ not for what the Bible teaches but for what they think they can get from following Christ: more stuff, a better life now!

MacArthur went on to point out that all other religions offer that.  You can be happy in Buddhism.  You can be joyful in Islam.  You can find peace, satisfaction, discipline, etc. in other religions but the one thing that makes true biblical Christianity different from all religions is that Christ alone saves us from the wrath of God.

The wrath of God.  You can’t be saved from the wrath of God in Buddhism or Islam or Scientology.  You can only be saved from the wrath of God in Christ.  Christ alone bore the blunt of God’s wrath on the cross (Isaiah 53:6, 10-12).  Christ alone takes away the wrath of God against our sins (Romans 5:1-11).  Christ alone saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  To come to Christ for things, for prosperity, for happiness – all these things are not biblical.  We come to Christ because we are under the just wrath of God against our sins.  We deserve His wrath.  We have earned His wrath.  But Christ takes away our sins and He appeases the wrath of God (1 John 2:1-2).  Christ took the wrath of God on the cross for us (Colossians 2:13-15).

How then will the world escape the coming wrath of God (Romans 1:18-32)?  The Church must preach Christ.  Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life and He alone can bring peace with God.  We need to preach the Law of God to show sinners that they have broken God’s Law (1 Timothy 1:8-11; James 2:10-13) and we need to preach the biblical truth that justification only comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Apart from faith in the biblical Jesus, there is no salvation (Acts 4:12).  Jesus alone is our mediator before God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Jesus alone obeyed God perfectly and died in the sinner’s place (1 Timothy 1:15).  He is our substitute, our spotless lamb (John 1:29).  Christ alone saves.  Not a religion.  Not a message of happiness and money.  Christ alone is the one who turns aside the wrath of God (Romans 3:25).  We must not shy away from asking people how they will escape the just wrath of God against them by showing them the Law (Romans 3:19-20) and then showing them the grace of God given to us in His Son (Titus 2:11).

Let us then preach the wrath of God.  Let us dwell on that biblical truth and proclaim to the world that Christ alone saves us from the coming wrath.  It alone is the message that saves sinners (Romans 10:14-17).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/11/2012 at 11:11 AM

The Word of God Does Not Change

What is amazing to me about the Word of God is that you can read a commentary written by Matthew Henry or Adam Clarke or by modern Bible commentators and nothing much changes.  Some might have a bit more insight than others but the Word of God does not change.  Preaching is the same.  You can read sermons by John Calvin or by John Wesley or by Robert Murray M’Cheyne and nothing much changes.  The styles may change but the Word of God does not change so long as the preacher is being faithful to teach the Word of God and not to be an entertainer or to add their own thoughts to the text.  The Word of God alone needs no improvement (despite what emergents may think) and the Word of God can produce life (2 Timothy 3:15) long after the preacher is dead and gone.

So let me speak frankly to the modern preaching I see today.  The Church does not need your “new and cool” sermon series.  The Church does not need your lack of Bible teaching.  The Church does not need your weekly topical studies of whatever you want to talk about.  The Church needs the Word of God!  Long after you are dead and gone my non-dealing with the text friend, the Word of God will remain.  Isaiah wrote this about the Word of God that you often ignore:

6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Peter quotes from this verse in 1 Peter 1:24.  Peter even states that it is the Word of God that produces salvation.  Notice Peter’s words:

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

The Word of God produces life.  So why do so many modern Bible teachers avoid the Bible?  They want to preach sermons such as “Apps for Life” or any other topical title they so desire to deal with.  The Bible teacher, in turn, becomes the one who speaks to the Church instead of God speaking to His Church.  “But we use the Bible” I can hear the hip Bible teacher declare.  But do you?  Are people being taught how to properly study, interpret, and apply the Bible?  Are they hearing from the text and are you showing through proper exegesis what the Scriptures say or are you simply proof texting your points?

The bottom line is that the people of God need the Word of God.  If we are to combat false teachings from the cults or from heresy, we must do so with the Word of God and not the opinions of flesh.  Only the Word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17.  Not a topical sermon on American Idol.  The people of God are in desperate need of the Word of God.  In an age of abounding errors, we don’t need a new sermon series on “Fear Factor” or “Desperate Sex Lives.”  We need to hear from heaven through the Word of God.

If you would teach verse by verse through the Bible then 40 years from now it would still be relevant.  Take great expositors such as W.A. Criswell or John MacArthur.  You can’t tell if they are preaching a sermon from 1975 or 1996 because the Word of God does not change.  I listened to Dr. Criswell preach the other night and it was from the 1970’s but you would not know that because the Word of God does not change.  Times change.  People change.  Politicians change.  Sports changes.  But the Word of God does not change.  So my advice: Preach the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/30/2012 at 10:32 AM

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