Stetzer reminds us:
At the heart of effective preaching is a solid missiological perspective. Are you communicating in such a way that your words actually convey biblical truth to your audience? Or does your preaching float right past your hearers because it’s not delivered “on a frequency” that they listen to?
He then acknowledges that we have a lot of controversy these days regarding the way the message is communicated.
Many in the Christian church suggest that the only way to communicate the gospel is through verse-by-verse expository preaching. Others like Rick Warren have adopted what he calls a topical exposition approach. Still others like Dan Kimball, in The Emerging Church, talk about a theotopical approach. I’ve written more about types of preaching elsewhere. But, the issue here is not whether you approach Scripture from an expository perspective or a topical one; it has more to do with your starting point so you can be understood by your hearers.
The model some proffer is:
1) The Bible says this.
2) It is important.
3) You should do it.
Stetzer, using examples from Acts 13, 14, and 17) suggests:
1) Why is this important and how does it relate to me?
2) What does the Bible say about it?
3) What am I going to do with what the Bible says about it?
When we begin at the point of relevance, it does not in any way nullify the importance of rightly dividing the Word of God. We think that a common mistake many seeker-driven churches made early on was trying to communicate relevant messages that had little or no biblical content. It seemed that the sermons were basically explanations of common-sense wisdom or perhaps biblical principals, but the Bible did not set the shape or agenda of the message.
We must always remember that “consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17) and “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Bible is not simply a tool for scriptural footnoting or common-sense wisdom.
Scripture was given to reveal Jesus; therefore, all of our preaching should be Christ-centered.
And then absolutely nails it with this summary.
In our current environment, contextualized preaching has its origin in God’s heart, but it is first expressed when we connect with hearers. He already had given us the message and the Scripture. It is relevant in this and every culture.
Too often we say, “I want to make the Bible relevant.” No need. It already is. Our job is to present it in ways that help the hearer see that it is relevant—in this and in every culture. We do so by starting at their understanding and taking them to Scripture for the whole answer.
- It is easy to preach in culturally relevant ways.
- It is easy to preach solid biblical texts.
- It is hard to do both in the same message.
But, if we are to preach like Jesus and Paul, we must learn to do so. Just as Jesus did, we must preach in a way so that people can best understand and respond to the gospel message.
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