This Sunday, a pastor at a church down the street will be preaching on the popular, but theologically heretical bestseller, The Shack. Another one will be preaching some sort of "response" to Dan Brown's latest attack on Christianity, Angels and Demons. Hundreds - if not thousands - more preachers will be borrowing messages from pop-psychologists, self-help seminar leaders, and positive-thinking, motivational speakers addressing things like overcoming stress, enjoying your job, or the latest troubling fad - trying to lure people by talking explicitly about sex. Others still will be offering up corny takeoffs of TV series like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Lost, and The Biggest Loser, all trying to make some sort of tenuous Christian connection.
And I used to do the same. I look over my message titles from 5-6 years ago and more and cringe as I see the same sort of junk. I had message series like: CASTAWAY – How to Get off Your Desert Island and SURVIVOR - How to Make It in a Tough World. Seriously. I actually preached that stuff. But over time, my approach has changed. I'd like to say I had an epiphany and God himself said "Stop co-opting Rick Warren's messages and getting your inspiration from the TV set", but it didn't exactly happen that way. It was more gradual. I slowly begin to realize that man's wisdom - no matter what man - is not life-changing. It may be impressive, memorable, and even adored, but its effects are minimal. What people need - what I need - is a word from God. I begin to feel a deep and lasting conviction that I should do exactly as Paul told his apprentice Timothy to do: Preach the Word. Period.
When you preach the Word, you don't need a knee-jerk response to every Dan Brown, Richard Dawkins, or Oprah Winfrey. When you preach the Word, you don't need to be cute, clever, or contemporary. The Word is powerful, effective, and timeless. When you preach the Word, you don't need a hook, a gimmick, or bait-n-switch. It's truth. Total truth. Now it's true that not everyone will want that sort of preaching. Many prefer to be entertained, coddled, or indulged. But Paul covered all that when he told Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
So - if any young preachers are out there reading this - here's my advice. Preach the Word. Study it thoroughly, think on it deeply, live it honestly, and communicate it passionately. God will take care of the rest.
Just my thought for the day!