Did you see the Trib article on Sunday about pastors and their prep for Easter?
The Easter Spotlight
It kind of made me laugh because Sarah Linn called early in the week, but it wasn't until Thursday that I finally got back to her and then only left her a long voicemail and my mobile number to call if she had any more questions. I was a bit surprised to see my name in the paper and my voicemail quoted.
The article reminded me, yet again, that there are lots of different approaches to this thing called Easter. By and large, our goal here at Grace is to do what we always do, but gear it perhaps just slightly more toward the unbeliever. We want people who might come back the next week to know what to expect. I don't believe in a "bait and switch" approach. It seems to me, the way you bring them in is the way you've got to keep them which leads quickly to a "dog and pony show."
This quote struck me. . .
“People’s attention span is less and less. For me to stand up and speak for 30 minutes may not be the best way of reaching people who aren’t in church normally,” said Ferrell, senior pastor at Atascadero Bible Church."
Tom is a friend and I believe Tom is right that peoples "attention span is less and less." I feel that tension and often question what I'm doing. In fact, Tom's quote and the article in general caused some soul searching after coming home on Sunday afternoon exhausted and worn out . . .Maybe we should do dramas on Easter Sunday. Maybe we should find a gimmick that will really bring them in. Maybe we can skip the sermon altogether. Why do we do what we do? Is it really working? Who am I and what am I doing with my life?
(Are you surprised that your pastor asks questions like this? Don't be!)
But then I go back to the Word and I am convicted again about the primacy of preaching in the life of the church . . . .
- Jesus preached. . . He says it's what He came for. When everybody wanted more miracles, he preached. If preaching was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.
Mark 1:38 He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”
- Jesus makes it clear that the Gospel must be preached to the nations . . .
Matt. 24:14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
- The early church grew because of their commitment to the preaching of God's Word . .
Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer
Acts 8:4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.
- The Apostle Paul defined his own mission in terms of preaching, even distinguishing preaching from baptizing. He indicates that there is a way to preach "in cleverness of speech" that can actually render the cross of Christ void. I have pondered that idea for years now. . .
1Cor. 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
1Cor. 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
- The more I understand about the 1st century world, I'm convinced that even in Paul's day there were other more popular forms of communication and Paul was probably trained in the use of rhetoric, but he chose to proclaim Christ crucified not in "superiority of speech or wisdom" . . .
1Cor. 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
1Cor. 2:2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
- Paul said he was under compulsion to preach the Gospel . . .
1Cor. 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
- As Paul instructs Timothy considering leadership in the church, again we see the primacy of preaching . . .
1Tim. 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
- And Paul's dying solemn charge to Timothy is to preach the Word, when people want and when they don't . . . with patience and diligence . . . regardless of what everybody else is doing . . .
2Tim. 4:1 I solemnly 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:
2Tim. 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2Tim. 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
2Tim. 4:4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
2Tim. 4:5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
- Peter said that people are born again through the preaching of God's Word . . .
1Pet. 1:23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
1Pet. 1:24 For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
1Pet. 1:25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
I feel the weight of these Biblical passages. My conscience is bound by the Word and to preaching. I, too, am under compulsion. I don't preach because preaching is the best way to communicate in today's world or because people want to hear a talking head for 30 minutes or more (THEY DON'T!), I preach because preaching is God's ordained means of communicating the Gospel. The message is foolishness and the medium is foolishness, too. But God is pleased to use the foolishness of Gospel preaching to save.
I don't dislike dramatic presentations. I actually like them a lot. I just don't think they should displace the centrality of preaching on even Easter morning for the sake of gathering a crowd.
At the Shepherd's Conference a couple weeks back, Al Mohler compared preaching to washing your hair: rinse, lather, repeat. . . but in preaching its: read the text, explain the text, apply the text, repeat.
That's what I do . . . week after week after week. . . that's what I'm called to.
A pastor of an early generation, once said,
Preaching is in the shadows, the world does not believe in it.
I think that's more true than ever. The question for the church today and in every generation is, "Does the church believe in it?"
It really doesn't matter if the world believes in preaching, but it matters greatly if the church believes in it. It matters to me personally that we together at Grace believe in preaching. Fads and methods will continue to come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Faith comes and grows by hearing . . .
Excuse me, I have to go get ready to preach!