How to Preach Christ (Pt 1)

One of the most common mistakes in preaching occurs when a preacher takes a passage from the Bible and immediately applies that passage to the life and practice of the congregation.

The strength of this option is that it seeks to make the Bible relevant to our everyday lives. People who gravitate to this kind of preaching feel refreshed and encouraged that the Bible was able to make a definitive contribution to their lives that day or that week. However, even with excellent intent, preachers who lean on this model will find that they can go weeks, or even months, preaching from the Bible without ever appealing to Jesus. Sometimes, and I have seen this time and again with some of the more popular television and radio evangelists, there is an awkward awareness of this fact and so Jesus gets tacked on to the end of the message as an afterthought or an appendix. Often there is an invitation to make Jesus the Lord and Saviour of your life, even though the preceding half hour failed to mention Him, except maybe in passing. Furthermore, this model can be used by all kinds of self-help gurus who appeal to the Bible because of its ancient heritage without gleaning any actual truth from its pages. Bryan Chapell (Christ-Centered Preaching, 273) provides an excellent example of what I mean:

Unless we identify the redemptive purposes of a text [rooted in Christ], it is possible to say all the right words and yet send all the wrong signals. I witness this miscommunication almost daily as the top-rated radio station in our city broadcasts a “meditation” during the early morning. In each meditation, the preacher addresses a topic with a Bible verse or two. The subjects run the gamut from procrastination to care for children to honesty on the job… As the speaker reminds us to practice punctuality, good parenting, and business propriety, I imagine thousands of listening Christians are nodding their heads and saying in unison, “That’s right… that’s how we should live.” I have played tapes of these meditations to seminary classes and asked if anyone can discern error. Rarely does anyone spot a problem. The speaker quotes from the Bible accurately, he advocates moral causes, and he encourages loving behaviors. Thus, students are usually astonished when I point out that the radio preacher is not a Christian. He actually represents a large cult in our region.

Chapell goes on to write that the speaker betrays his heresy every time he speaks in that he does not mention Jesus. Tragically, many evangelical preachers are guilty of this same kind of preaching, which explains why the men and women in our churches are unable to discern a Christian sermon from a non-Christian sermon.

There are many Christians who routinely read their Bibles according to this model. Unfortunately, many Christians are trained to read their Bibles this way, either explicitly in a discipleship relationship or implicitly by mimicking the pattern of the preacher in their church. Of course, this explains why so many portions of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, have no meaning to the modern Bible reader. Unless these difficult texts, along with all texts, are understood in light of Jesus, confusion and disorientation will abound. Yes, this model for preaching fails to consistently include Christ and therefore it opens itself up to a plethora of misuses and abuses of the Bible. Therefore, it ought to be rejected as a faithful method.

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