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10 Sacred Cows That Need to Be Tipped

In this article, Jared Moore offers his (often controversial) thoughts on the sacred cows that need to be tipped in the church today.

In this article, Jared Moore offers his (often controversial) thoughts on the sacred cows that need to be tipped in the church today.

By Jared Moore

Editor’s Note: In this article, Jared Moore offers his (often controversial) thoughts on the sacred cows that need to be tipped in the church today. We invite you to share your feedback — your disagreements and affirmations — and encourage you to offer your own list of “sacred cows” in the comment section below. 

1. Entertainment-Based Sermons

Pastors/elders/teachers want to be liked. Some want to be liked so much that they’re willing to entertain their hearers while preaching the Bible. They wrongly assume that because people enjoy their sermons, they enjoy Jesus as well. The problem is that if we’re seeking to entertain our hearers, then we don’t believe God or Scripture can hold the attention of God’s people. In other words, you may say, “The Bible is worthy of your attention,” but if you’re using entertainment to communicate this, then you’re undercutting your message with your methods. If the Bible is worthy to be heard because God is its Author, then you shouldn’t have to use entertainment to get Christians to listen to it. You just might be entertaining your hearers to death.

2. Bribes

Easter Sunday was just a few weeks ago. With the heightened cultural interest in the resurrection of Christ, churches pulled out all the stops to persuade attendees. Churches gave away cars, money, iPads, food, etc. Should churches bribe sinners to attend worship services? Here are four realities about bribing sinners: 1) Bribing people to hear the gospel is absent from Scripture. 2) Bribing people to attend a worship service encourages them to attend worship for sinful reasons. 3) Bribing people to attend a worship service communicates the opposite of the gospel. 4) Bribing people to attend worship does not make disciples. Due to these reasons, I think Christians bribe sinners to hear the gospel because they’ve reversed the order of the two greatest commandments: First, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself. Bribing people exalts loving one’s neighbor above loving God because the purpose of evangelism is to glorify God, not to glorify sinners or Christians.

3. Revivalist Quotas

Numbers, numbers, numbers — that’s what’s emphasized throughout evangelicalism. Is there anywhere in Scripture where Israel’s strength or the church’s strength were in numbers? No. Is there anywhere in Scripture where God evaluated His church or their ministry based on numbers? No. So why is there a huge emphasis on numbers today? The answer is because, in the Western part of the world, bigger is better. Some also argue that numbers are important because souls are important, but if you really care about souls, you’ll labor to make disciples, not to merely baptize unrepentant, salvation-ignorant people who do not understand the lifelong commitment they’re making. The Great Commission has been redefined today as baptizing those who confess Christ as Lord, with the Great Omission being the command to “teach these Christians everything that Christ has commanded” (Matt. 28:18-20). Repentance and faith in Christ is the beginning of Christianity. When a believer is baptized, he or she has just begun his or her public identification with Christ. In order to truly fulfill the Great Commission, the local church must take these baptized believers and teach them everything Christ has commanded.

4. Selfish Motives in Worship

Have you ever heard another believer say about worship, “I didn’t get anything out of that.” Next time you hear this, say, “It’s not about you.” God alone deserves to be glorified in worship. The only time we shouldn’t get anything out of worship is when God isn’t glorified. If the word of God was sung, prayed and preached faithfully, and you didn’t get anything out of worship, then repent and worship because God is worthy of worship. Worship is not about us. God is the center of worship, not us.

5. Atmosphere-Induced Nostalgia

The goal of worship is to glorify God, not to feel good. Have you ever read the Psalms, the hymnal of God’s people for thousands of years? They’re not always happy or joyful. In other words, they’re not nostalgia inducing. Today’s worship in the local church is largely about an atmosphere that encourages worship. The test of “true” worship is often how good one feels when he or she leaves the worship service. Specific lighting, styles of music, sentimentality, singing phrases over and over, etc. serve to create a euphoric feeling that hearers will long for the rest of their lives. The problem is that the feeling, the nostalgia, becomes the god the believer longs for instead of the true God who is worthy of worship when believers feel like it and when they don’t.

6. “Relevant” Sermons

There is such a large emphasis on preaching “relevant” sermons today, which often translates to sermons that “meet people’s needs” regardless of how selfish, narcissistic and godless these needs may be. The preacher’s goal is not to make the Bible relevant, but to help his hearers see how relevant the Bible is! The Bible is the Word of God and is timelessly relevant! The Bible transcends all societies, cultures, fads, etc. If you’re “making the Bible relevant,” then change your name to “the Holy Spirit.”

7. Relativistic Interpretation

There’s an emphasis in our culture on being tolerant of other individuals and their ideas. This mentality has infiltrated the church as well. Various interpretations of Scripture are tolerated, often based on the perceived sincerity of an individual instead of the intrinsic social, historical and grammatical properties of the text itself. The text does not have multiple meanings, but one meaning that has multiple applications. We cannot act like interpreters who have more authority than the author who originally penned the words. It doesn’t matter what we “think” or “feel” about the text. What matters is what the author meant, what his recipients understood, what the Holy Spirit intended, and how all these truths apply to our daily lives. Don’t jump authorial intent to make yourself the “new author” by applying the text beyond the meaning of the text.

8. Parenting and Ministering for Man’s Applause Instead of God’s Glory

Something that’s interesting about much of children’s ministry and youth ministry is that ministers are terribly concerned with being liked by these immature Christians or unbelievers. They’re desperately concerned with their hearers enjoying their songs, prayers and sermons. Furthermore, parents are very concerned with whether or not their children enjoy going to worship at a local church. What happened to truth? What about God? What happened to “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”? Ministers and parents everywhere, for sake of hearing the applause of children and youth, are compromising the truth on the altar of being liked or possessing an easy life. I realize that if a child hates church, then every worship service you attend will be a battle, but that doesn’t free you to give your child another reason other than God to attend worship. Furthermore, if you’re a minister, don’t believe children and youth love Jesus because they love entertainment, and try to communicate the gospel through entertainment. How can you get a selfish person to see the value of Jesus and their need for Him by appealing to their selfishness? If children and teenagers are saying, “I don’t care if God has spoken or not — I won’t listen to Him unless you entertain me,” then they do not love God, Jesus, His Word or the local church.

9. Unchristian Love

Love has been radically redefined in the local church as being “accepting of all, while holding no one accountable to biblical faithfulness.” How many churches consistently practice biblical discipline? Very few. Even though God has always held His people accountable to His Word, and even though biblical discipline is commanded in Scripture, local churches have redefined Christian love to include “tolerance of unrepentant sin,” while excluding “loving accountability to God’s Word.”

10. Demigod Evaluations

If you and I evaluate our ministries, defining them as “successful” or “unsuccessful” based on our own arbitrary observations, then we’re making demigod evaluations. A demigod is a deified mortal. In order to truly evaluate our ministries as successful or unsuccessful, we must have God’s all-knowing evaluating ability. In most conferences and denominations, those who are held up as examples are those who have large churches. They’re often held up as examples because of demigod evaluations carried out by those in various leadership positions. These ministers may be more successful, or they may not be. The truth of the matter is that we cannot accurately evaluate our ministries or other people’s ministries beyond the Word of God, as if we know the hearts of everyone who attends these churches. In other words, faithfulness to Scripture should govern and motivate your ministry, not a demigod evaluation made by you or others. Pursue faithfulness to Scripture in light of Christ’s redeeming work, not arbitrary ego boosting or “calling of God,” destroying submission to demigod evaluations.

What are your thoughts? 

Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He’s currently the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of “10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped.” Jared is married to Amber and together they have three children. He has a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Trinity College of the Bible, an M.A.R. in Biblical Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.Div. in Christian ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), a Th.M. in Systematic Theology (ABT) from SBTS, and he’s currently a PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS.
 
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Publicado por em 03/05/2015 em POIMENIA

 

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Are You Preaching with a Plastic Voice? [truth speaking through personality]

Society is filled with plastic voices.
Preaching requires someone to embody the Word of God.

Dr. Paul Brand was a medical doctor who once served in the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India. On one occasion he was visited by Abbé Pierre, portrayed in the video above, a French monk who had started a work among the beggars in Paris after World War II. The college had a custom of allowing visitors to speak for a few minutes to the medical students during lunch — but only for a few minutes. The students, like students everywhere, were not known for their attentiveness or kindness to visitors.

Abbé Pierre spoke in French through an interpreter. As he did so, he began to speak so rapidly and earnestly that the translators could not keep up with him and gave up. Yet, the passion of the man continued to captivate his listeners. In the end, they gave him a tremendous ovation, although they did not understand most of his message.

Dr. Brand asked a student, “How did you understand? No one here speaks French.” The answer he received was, “We did not need a language. We felt the presence of God and the presence of love” (from Paul Brand and Philip Yancey,Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, pages 54-55).

What is incarnational preaching? It is preaching out of the encounter with God that we live out in our lives.

Bishop William A. Quayle once said that preaching is not the art of making a sermon … it is the art of making a preacher. Phillips Brooks taught that preaching is truth speaking through personality.

Haddon W. Robinson, in defining expository preaching, mentions its incarnational aspects:

Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.

From Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages

A sermon is a Word that lives in our hearts. It speaks through our whole personality. It is a Word event in our lives, an oral encounter. The Old Testament prophets used the word na’um, “oracle” or “burden,” to describe the messages they received from God, messages that weighed heavily on their hearts (cf. Numbers 23:7, Psalm 36:1, Isaiah 13:1, Jeremiah 23:33-38, Ezekiel 12:10).

The rationalism of the modern era made many of our sermons seem so emotionless and detached from life. We dispensed truth as if we were dishing out food, instead of being prophets and sages. Postmodern preaching ought to be heart-felt. We want to speak out of our personal encounters with the living God.

I have a friend, from the African American tradition, whom I greatly respect. He serves in a small inner-city Baptist church founded by his father. The work is discouraging and difficult and the church barely survives. He and his wife have to work other jobs.

One day, I invited my friend to preach in my church, not because of his fame or connections, but because of his suffering. I knew he could say things I never could have.

Toward the end of his sermon, as he slipped into the rhythmic call and response exhortation of the African American sermon, when the main point is driven home, I could sense him touching lives. His whole personality and his heart-felt emotion spoke to a whole class of people who never responded to me before. It was his life lived before God that was speaking.

Postmodern society is filled with plastic voices. These are the advertisements of our age that call out to people for attention, like painted ladies from corners. The danger we face is to become just another plastic voice. It happens when our message is not backed by our authenticity and our private suffering for God. We become just counterfeit bills floating around the neighborhood stores, until someone finally spots us.

When we allow truth to speak through ourwhole personality, it means that our greatest moments may come when we least expect them, when our genuineness and immediacy are just there, at a time when people need them, in a way we can never plan. Those times may not be smooth and elegant. There might be raw moments, when spirits fight for dominance. We won’t be able to control ourselves then. Every gesture, every eye glance, every nuance will reveal our authenticity, or lack thereof.

If preaching is truth speaking through personality, we will expect our preaching to reflect our full personality. The development of narrative and inductive sermons in recent decades has been a needed step. We are rediscovering emotion and story and song and drama and metaphor as we seek to teach the faith. The postmodern sermon is sensitive to the significance of non-logical arguments.

Jeremiah smashed clay vessels as he preached. Elijah lay down for months beside a little mud city he built. For three years Isaiah preached stark naked! In the New Testament, Jesus preached parables. From tales about sheep and weeds he drew illogical conclusions about the kingdom of God. Who cares if his reasoning style would be thrown out of a logic classroom—it worked! And when signs and wonders accompanied the early preaching, people responded—not because the power of an argument convinced them, but because the power of God had.

Manuscripts And Incarnational Preaching

Preaching has to be more than reading a manuscript. It is a Voice, nestled in our hearts, that we feel comes from God and that we know we must communicate as we live before God. Paper alone is insufficient to hold a Word like that. Only the human heart can.

The greatest hindrance to whole-personality preaching may be our own preparation.

We should prepare for the preaching moment, but we deceive ourselves if we think we can, through preparation, capture the moment in advance. Preparation does, indeed, heighten our readiness for the preaching event, but preaching is a real-time event. That’s what makes it so unpredictable. When we preach, we engage in live theater of the highest drama, with the fate of the lonely, the lost and the listless at stake.

I have spent hundreds of Sundays straining myself in front of a crowd as I tried to pry words off paper—words I carefully glued there in my Thursday study.

Then, one Sunday I decided to go into the pulpit without weight of manuscript or note. I felt like the prophet Isaiah without a stitch! “It’s just you and me, now, Lord,” I quickly prayed as I left my office for that worship service. Preaching for me was about to become a real-time event.

When I preach without manuscript or with little, I sometimes pause longer than normal. While speaking, sometimes I have no idea why I change course in mid-stream, but then I learn why in the end. Sometimes I’m not as literary-sounding as I would like, but then again, my voice never broke with emotion before. I never found myself speaking words that got the better of me. Once I just talked about God. Now, once in a while, I find God speaking through me.

David Teague

Dr. David Teague is a theologian, pastor and missionary. He has taught in seminaries in Egypt and now is an adjunct for Gordon-Conwell Seminary, USA.

Source: SERMON CENTRAL

 
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Publicado por em 02/05/2012 em POIMENIA

 

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