Is it enough to claim “Christ-centered” in our preaching?

“It is not enough to focus on the great, central, epochal, events in the history of redemption. It is not enough to operate almost exclusively in the indicative mood. It is not enough to reduce the imperatives of the New Testament to the vague generality so often heard, namely, ‘Look to Christ!’ and to leave the application of the preached word to the Spirit of God.”[1]

[1] John Carrick, The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric (Carlisle, Penn: Banner of Truth, 2002), 144.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike Jarvis on March 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    The first four words of each of those sentences are the most troubling for me, personally. I would beg to differ. What do you mean “it is not enough”?

  2. Mike,

    Who doesn’t want to be “Christ-centered,” right? Carrick’s book is a response to those who believe preaching should be no more than proclaiming the sweeping themes of Scripture. It is now fashionable to claim one’s preaching as “redemptive,” “biblical-theological,” “reformed,” “Christ-centered,” and even “apostolic” in it’s focus. As Carrick notes (many others have as well) the outline of the sermon tends to hover in the clouds around the themes of creation, fall, redemption. The result, and this is the point, specific application is largely avoided and attempts to apply the Word are deemed “atomistic” or “moralistic.”

    We need the indicatives of Scripture (who is God? What has He done? etc.) but we have failed to preach if we do not present them as imperatives (How does He want us to respond?). I hope this helps Mike.


  3. Posted by Mike Jarvis on March 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm


    This helps a lot, and I would agree. We need to provide clarity to the context, clear explanation, and specific application (i.e., imperatives) to those sweeping themes, but not at expense of minimizing Christ and acknowledging the role of the Spirit’s power in the application. That would be like swinging the pendulum to far in the wrong direction. However, as you said, we need more imperatives if we are to preach biblically.

    Way to push some buttons, Paul! Keep ’em comin’!


  4. Posted by Mark on March 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Great point. I struggle greatly (no joke) with application as I preach. Serious question. How do you move from the indicatives to making them imperatives to making specific applications without moving to your personal standard that may not be binding? For instance, Be holy for I am holy (indicative) means that you must actually DO something (yes in the power of the Spirit) to be holy(imperative) which means specifically this (application) — having grown up with the application from this flow always being a list of dos and don’ts (say don’t go to movies or listen to this music). Then the dos and don’ts which may simply be personal preferences (the application) become the manner in which we are told we must live out the imperatives which become the standard by which we are judged to live or at least to be striving to be holy. Is any of this making sense.

    I greatly appreciate and agree (if I understand it properly) the post. As simply stated, I struggle greatly with the application (I also think this is critical to my growth as an expositor). Any suggest help or reading?

    • Mark,

      Sorry for the late response. I really appreciate your question and I hope to give it a fuller response in an upcoming post on application. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and would like to see what you guys think. In the meantime, you might search the category in the right side-bar called “application.” There are 25 different posts there, some of which address a few of the things you mentioned.


  5. I agree, merely claiming to be “Christ-centered” can mean almost anything. If we are going to be good under Shepherds and actually feed Christ’s sheep we must do more than just throw the ingredients on platters to the sheep. We must put those ingredients together in such a way that as the sheep feed on the meal, the meal includes how to respond. I have been frustrated listening to a good message and then as I am just starting to think about connecting the dots, the preacher says, let’s pray. I want to say. “hey, wait a minute! How do I do this?”

  6. Posted by Eric Adams on March 30, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Paul, great quote, capturing a frustration I have been having with some who seem to be saying that the imperatives of Scripture are only there to show us our sin so that we will “look to Christ.” Thanks!

  7. Posted by Vonnie E.L.James on April 14, 2010 at 11:22 am

    How to be a expositor? Is this a gift or a skilled. I do teaching at church.But it doesn’t seem to be one of my best gift.Yet during preaching,I am able to teach and I believe people get it. I love John MacAuthur and John Piper and the guys…David Jeremiah…yet where does TD Jakes gets his incites from?
    I would love to preach like TD Jakes with incites like John Mac Authur ,John Piper and David Jeremiah.
    Do this make sense?

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