Center Preaching on God

A good reminder from Biblical Preaching:

Based on the nature of Scripture, I think it is vital that we grasp the necessity of theocentric interpretation, and consequently, preaching. Kent Edwards, in a journal article, stated:

The point of a biblical story is always a theological point. We learn something about God and how to live in response to him when we understand a biblical story. The narrative literature of the Bible is concretized theology. (J.Kent Edwards, JEHS 7:1, 10)

How true that is! Even if you were to study Esther, the story in the Bible where God is textually absent, it doesn’t take long to recognize that God is very much present as the hero of the story! Let’s be sure we don’t study Bible passages, stories in particular, and merely derive little lessons for life. We can leave that with Aesop’s Fables. Let’s be sure we grapple with the theological point of every story, the intersection between God and humanity. God’s Word is all relevant and useful, so our preaching should likewise be relevant and useful to life. But we also center our preaching on God, because the Bible is centered on Him!

Therapeutic Preaching

continued from yesterday

I have observed three approaches to preaching that lead to human-centered sermons.

The first approach is therapeutic preaching. This preaching focuses on people's felt needs such as how to build relationships, handle stress, manage money, raise children, and resolve conflicts. In a therapeutic culture, the pressure to preach this way is intense.

Therapeutic preaching, however, comes at a cost. It is often not based on a vision of God and the gospel. It can lead to a self-help approach and narcissism. At its worst, it can resemble a Christian version of pop-psychology, or what one person calls "chicken soup for the Christian life." This type of preaching brings to mind "the image of Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave", write Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk. "Most preaching is about how to cope with a life wrapped in grave clothing that is never removed."

Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, recounts hearing a sermon on how to overcome procrastination. He knew they were in trouble, he says, when the first point was to buy a DayTimer. "The Bible is a book about God," Robinson writes. "It is not a religious book of advice about the 'answers' we need about a happy marriage, sex, work, or losing weight. Although the Scriptures reflect on many of those issues, they are above all about who God is and what God thinks and wills. I understand reality only if I have an appreciation for who he is and what he desires for his creation and from his creation."

tomorrow: a second human-centered approach