Expositing, Not Entertaining (Pt 3)

In the opening pages of the classic text, Biblical Preaching (18) Haddon Robinson elucidates the predicament of most preachers:

Preaching takes place in an over-communicated society. Mass media bombard us with a hundred thousand “messages” a day. Television and radio feature pitchmen delivering a “word from the sponsor” with all the sincerity of an evangelist. Within that context the preacher may sound like another huckster who, in John Ruskin’s words, “plays stage tricks with the doctrines of life and death.” More important perhaps, is that some ministers in the pulpit feel robbed of an authoritative message. Much modern theology offers them little more than holy hunches, and they suspect that the sophisticates in the pew place more faith in science texts than in preaching texts. For some preachers, therefore, fads in communication become more alluring than the message. Multimedia presentations, videos, sharing sessions, blinking lights, and up-to-date music may be symptoms of either health or disease. Undoubtedly, modern techniques can enhance communication, but on the other hand, they can substitute for the message. The startling and unusual may mask a vacuum.

In the same vein, Stott (Between Two Worlds, 70) comments on the effect that television has had on the pulpit:

Television makes it harder for people to listen attentively and responsively, and therefore for preachers to hold a congregation’s attention, let alone secure an appropriate response.

So often our congregations demand a sermon that is on pace with our fast moving culture. Equally often preachers feel compelled to oblige.

The problem? The Bible is not meant to keep up with our culture (though it will always be the most relevant book for any culture). It is not meant to tickle our humour or be presented as a sound-bite. The Bible is complex and richly textured. It identifies the deep sinful rebellion of humanity against a holy, righteous, and wrathful God. It sets before us life and death, eternity in Hell or with Christ, never-ending punishment or salvation and forever with God. It weaves an inexhaustible tapestry that can never be fully known or appreciated. It has no bottom. How then are we to take this infinite treasure and serve it up like an advertising slogan? How are we to take the feast of an everlasting Creator and cram it into a quick-dissolve pill?

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