Recently, Scribblepreach posted 12 ways to preach like Rob Bell… without being a heretic. Let me be clear, I think it is a well thought through and graciously balanced piece on a subject that has caused it’s fair share of controversy in recent years. So what I offer here is in no way a rebuttal of Scribblepreach’s points. In fact, I’ve just finished browsing an online catalogue of cool glasses as I consider taking my preaching to the next level. It did however, highlight an ongoing tension in my life and ministry (one and the same, though that’s another post!) that I’ve been trying to work through over the last few years. That is, the tension between my efforts as a preacher of God’s Word, and the independent, effectual work of God’s Word alone. I know that this tension is no new discovery. Preacher’s of the Word must have battled with this ever since Paul’s clarion call echoed through Timothy and down the corridors of time; “Preach the Word“. Even within that profound statement, the tension can be seen.
Preach the Word
Here’s how I feel the tension manifest itself; it exists between the act of preaching – and the content of preaching.
Scribblepreach’s post did a great job at highlighting what Rob Bell does well, along with some insightful, corresponding warnings. I found myself leaning forward as I followed his carefully crafted points all the way through to his witty conclusion. I nodded my head in agreement, clipped it to Evernote so I could easily reference it later, then drew up a mental list of all the deficient preachers I have known, correlated that list with my email contacts, and then prepared to hit the share button… enter the tension…
While I wholeheartedly agreed with what I was reading, I could not ignore the nagging voice that whispers, “Is it all about you?“.
Do other’s feel it too, or is it just me? I mean, we all want to be effective preachers, right? None of us want to get lumped in with ‘those guys’… you know the ones I’m talking about, don’t you? We want God’s Word to go out with power. We want to see lives transformed, eternal futures secured. So we work hard. We read excellent blogs like Scribblpreach’s. We mimic the styles of Keller, Carson and Piper… put our own twist on them so we don’t look like ‘fan boys’ and then step back to see the ‘fruit’ of all that hard work. Heck, we’ll even throw a little Bell into the mix if it gets the job done! Ok… I’ll pull back on the sarcasm a bit. But even as I write this, I feel the uneasy effects of my conscience as it completes its Spirit appointed work in me.
I know that far more often than I would care to admit… the tension is held way out of balance in my favor. Often, it’s all about the Preacher.
Again, so you don’t misunderstand my motives here, Scribblepreach did an excellent job at calling us to do the hard work needed in the text. Know the languages of the Bible. Understand the core thrust of the passage. All of these are about the content of preaching; the message we have been entrusted with and commanded to proclaim. I don’t need to chew over Scribblepreach’s points here so that you can digest them better, they are bite sized and palatable enough. But I would like to add one passage of scripture that helps me correct the drift that continually buffets the course of my ministry.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I guess that it’s because of this passage, and others (1 Cor 1:20-25, 2 Cor 4:2) that my tension exists. I don’t doubt the essential role of the herald, and we should all invest significant time and energy into improving in that arena. Even if that means changing our glasses annually. But it’s the ‘so that‘ in verse 5 that pulls me up every time. Everything I want for my listeners hinges on that ‘so that‘.
When all is said and done, regardless of your proficiency in Bell-ism, or Piper-ism, or whomever-ism; when your speech and message is done, it must be the power of God through His Word that brings the crowd to its knees. Not my oratory skill. Not my methodology. Certainly not my glasses. I am far too weak and sinful for my listeners faith to rest on me.
So as you read your manuscript through one last time on Saturday night, ask, “Will the Word of Christ dwell in them richly?“. Then as you meet with an accountability partner early in the week (you do that don’t you?), ask them, “Did the Word of Christ dwell in them richly?“.
To the praise of His glory…