As I was eating breakfast this morning the following thoughts on preaching came to mind.
My wife made blueberry pancakes for the family breakfast this morning. They were delicious ‘panners’ made perfect when topped off with maple syrup. The syrup I have grown accustomed to is imitation “light” syrup. As a matter of fact I really don’t enjoy “regular” syrup anymore. It is too sweet for my liking. I’d even choose light syrup over tree-tapped genuine Vermont maple syrup.
Sadly, I realized that many people are wired the same way when it comes to preaching. Many Christians have become so accustomed to shallow evangelical principalizing that when real expository preaching is tasted it’s rejected (at least initially). R.L. Dabney refers to a period in church history when Scriptural truth is presented but not in its Scriptural dress. That has become the most accepted and familiar mode of preaching in most evangelical pulpits these days. I’m not thinking about the Joel Osteens of the world in this particular post; I’m talking about men who honestly think they’re presenting an expository sermon and of congregations who think they’re actually hearing one. It’s not unbiblical truth that’s presented, its actually sound doctrine that’s just not presented in Scriptural dress.
Dabney rightly believed that the golden age of preaching is when Scriptural truth is presented in Scriptural dress. That of course is the power of true expository preaching. When we preach, we’re called to speak as it were, the very words of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). This is best accomplished when gifted men commit themselves wholly to Bible exposition.
The problem is that many people want so many illustrations, stories, or application points that no time is left for true exposition. Who wants to hear about the historical background of Romans when in that time 3 or 4 stories, illustrations, or jokes could be shared? Now most people wouldn’t say that aloud but that is in fact what they’re thinking.
I noticed this response over 10 years when I was a student at the Master’s College. During a school sponsored Bible conference three gifted men brought the Word. All were great communicators but one was especially humorous and “relatable”. Unfortunately his sermons were also the lightest of the three. His preaching was thoroughly evangelical but not truly expositional or deep. Still most of the students I talked with in the dorms during and after the conference thought his sermons were the “best.” Those most gifted in oratory are often most prone to this extreme. It’s what i call “shallow evangelical principlizing.”
Engaging oratory and great communication is not synonymous with a great sermon. In our preaching we should seek both light and heat. I’m not calling for dry, lifeless, preaching here. Passionate, clear, text-driven preaching is what our people most desperately need. Just don’t be surprised if you bring that type of syrup to your people if they initially reject it in favor of the “light” stuff.