A Principle-Driven Preaching — Part #1
I have often thought about writing a book that paralleled that of Rick Warren’s, “A Purpose Driven Life.” Mine would be called, “A Principle-Driven Life.”
After 50 years of teaching in Christian colleges and universities, preaching and teaching in a variety of settings, I have tried to focus on the practical.
Now I know that there are many, if not all, who have that as their goal. I mean — who teaches and preaches without that target in mind? Who would say . . . .
- “I want to be impractical.”
- “This morning, I want my message to be over the heads of the people.”
- “It’s an in the clouds kind of message this morning!”
- “Ivory Towers is where its at!”
However, I also know that some (maybe many) who have practicality and/or applicability as their aim and believe that they hit that target — but are not even close! They would like to think their teaching or preaching is practical, but it is actually very boring! If you doubt that — ask yourself how many speakers or preachers you have listened to which move and challenge your mind and heart. When is the last time you said — “Now that was good-to-great preaching!” or “He brought that biblical truth home and made it real to me!”
Preaching and teaching which comes from “Theological Ivy Towers” is typically “in the clouds.” It rarely — if it ever does — speaks to the average person who faces the constant demands of family, work, raising children, education, health demands, financial pressures, etc.
If you are fair-minded, you well know “theological ivy tower-ism “ is closer to the reality in many churches. You too may have struggled, listening and wondering when the pastor is going to get to the application, the practical — after all that has been said, what does that look like in life and living?
Often the application is trite, far too short, and/or simplistic — “Now, we as God’s people need to be more compassionate (or whatever the ‘topic’) towards one another . . . yadda . . . yadda . . . yadda . . . Let us pray.”
Far too often it is . . . .
√ Just “biblical explanation.”
√ A running commentary on the obvious!
√ “Systematic theology class” forwarded to the pulpit.
√ “Biblical Hopscotching” from passage to passage.
√ Alliterated points which have no practical power.
√ The “pastor’s study” transported to the pulpit.
√ Probably all true, but “applicationally meaningless” to life and living.
It is not preaching and teaching!
It is not a message which . . . .
• grabs a hold of a valuable biblical principle
• clarifies the argument that the writer is making
• gives the listeners something they can take with them for the week
• calls for careful listening because what is being said matters
• identifies the key thought of the passage and applies it to life and living
As you sit – with Bible open – attentively listening – you are hoping that the message is leading somewhere that reaches that practical destination, a meaningful application to life and living where you are.
At other times, the speaker announces that he wishes he had more time to deal with the applications of this-or-that Bible truth, but “We must wrap it up. Time is running out.” As if, someone else prepared the message and was responsible for how much time would be taken for application. And/or, as if someone else had limited the amount of time allowed for the practical side of the message.
When it comes to preaching and teaching, the “patrons” at this “restaurant” would like to know that they will be spiritually fed. AND the obvious goal is to have them depart with. . . .
- part of the meal which was served!
- something they can take home.
- thoughts which will press upon their minds and hearts for the coming days!
People know when they have heard a good or great sermon. They also know that “good-to-great” means that it developed a biblical truth and brought it down to where they and others are in life.
As they leave, they say to themselves — and others — “That was good!” Not the “that was good” that is somewhat requisite and expected at the door. But a “that was good” because it met a real need in life for them — personally! It gave them something “to take home” with them after the dinner.
When that happens, what you are really responding to is that the biblical message spoke to life and living — where you are — on a level you can reach and feel. It was practical. There was application which you easily grasped and/or was insightfully provided. There was something to both “eat at the table” and then to “take home with you “out the door.”
Most listeners sincerely give their time with the reasonable expectation that attending will help them live out their lives as believers. Who have to live and work in the real world tomorrow morning and/or have already had a rough week. They have purposefully given their time to be present and are there because they anticipate that there will something which will aid them in their walk as a believer . . . .
- at home
- midst financial stress
- at work
- in your marriage / family
- while going through this-or-that trial
- in this fallen world!
Often, it is not that the teaching or preaching was not biblical or theological in content — but rather that it was only that — theology/doctrine. In essence, it was a class in systematic theology, where we go from passage to passage, examining a word or biblical topic which was originally found in the passage where we began. The words are defined and explained, but never connected to the main argument of the passage. It is explanatory, but it is not useful!
- What is the point?
- Why have we looked at, talked about, been given all this theological explanation?
- I understood all that was said, but it is leading anywhere that applies to my life?
Practical preaching and teaching are built on this premise — that we came into the Christian life, after being inundated with the world’s vantage and thinking — most likely for a number of years — that after we have been bought and brought into the kingdom of His Dear Son, after we moved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, NOW we must begin seeing and thinking differently.
That is why Romans 12:1-2 states that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
May I suggest that this is the aim of preaching and teaching. Identifying, clarifying, exemplifying, and illustrating Scriptural truths and principles — truths and principles which can cause us to see and think differently!
It is biblical truths and principles which are designed to build a new mental mesh, through which our . . . .
- decisions / choices
- vantages / viewpoints
- conclusions, and evaluations
. . . . must pass and/or process.
That as we make decisions and choices — hundreds of choices and decisions every day — we now arrive at godly decisions.
It is biblical truths and principles which we want our children to hear talking to them as they make decisions. As they walk through life — right now alongside us, but someday without us — that they still hear those truths and principles talking to them in their minds and hearts as they leave their home.
It is these new biblical truths and principles which ought to push and prod us, our children, fellow believers, and the church, to make wise and discerning choices — choices which are now consistent with those new principles and truths.
My aim is for people to be driven in their lives by “biblical principles,” to have a principle-driven life!”
(cont’d — Part #2)