Today, I heard a great teaching on the importance of transparency and authenticity in our relationships, as we desire to live in freedom from life-controlling issues and grow to be the people God created us to be. I walked away from that time, wholeheartedly nodding my head and saying “Amen!” I also walked away, feeling as if there needs to be more practical instruction on how to develop these authentic and transparent relationships.
It made me think of this great quote:
“Preaching a sermon that is strong on information but weak on application is like shouting to a drowning man, ‘SWIM, SWIM!’ The message is true, but it’s not helpful.” From Jay Kesler via Kathy Koch
This quote is a bit harsh to blanket-ly apply to the teaching I heard because there was some application and some examples, but I’m a 3-point sermon kind of girl, and I like to walk away with a handful of things I can do today! So I followed up, asking for some helpful hints 🙂
I think we sometimes can get too caught up in practicality. For one thing, when asking is something practical, you need to be thinking – practical for who? There was a time very recently when I was struggling with some things and I think what would have been most practical for me would have been to hear about the nature of covenental agreements in the ancient near east.
Sin in our lives also can affect our understanding. (See the opening chapters or Romans for details on this.) I think we are often unable to judge what is practical for us. I might walk out of a sermon and think – So what? How does that affect me? It may be days, years, decades later that suddenly I see clearly that the message was practical.
I think one of the things a good sermon can do is to reveal the greatness of God or to reveal aspects of His character. Sometimes these things will have an obvious application and sometimes not. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a pastor choosing to speak on these topics. Much as I listen to Heather even when what she has to say has no practical bearing I don’t think there is anything wrong with me listening to God reveal Himself to me even if it does not have an obvious application.
One of the jobs of a preacher is to explain the word of God – even those parts that don’t look like they are relevant to our lives. God put them in there for a reason and that reason isn’t always clear to us. I don’t think a preacher always needs to rack his brains trying to come up with clear applications for everything. If he preaches his way through the bible and tries to make each chapter clear then it will change our lives even if we can’t always explain how this works.
I think the preaching at Park Street is a good example of this. Gordon Hugenberger does try to make his sermons practical. (Well, sometimes he tries.) But even when they do not have a clear application I almost always walk away with a deep sense of how great God is and how wonderful His word is. To me that is one of the signs that the Holy Spirit has given Dr. H the gift of preaching and teaching.
Also, I see so many great men and women of God getting excited about God and His word and growing in their walk with Christ at Park Street. I cannot believe that can be disconnected from Gordon’s preaching despite the fact that it often is impractical.
Of course, this is just my two cents. YMMV.
Just finished reading this blog post from internetmonk which I think captures what I was trying to say in my previous comment a lot better. I certainly don’t agree with everything the IM folks say but I find their respectful dissent very refreshing and challenging. I spent a lot of my Christian walk memorizing the Reformed Evangelical party line on numerous issues and these folks have helped me learn to think more critically about a lot of things.
You might want to give their blog a try if you aren’t already reading it.
Richard, great thoughts. And thanks for the link to the blog post (which I did read). I do think in this consumeristic society, we need to be careful not to end every interaction with “What about me?? Were my needs met???”
I think different people with different personalities and different styles of learning come to church/a sermon with different needs. Not every sermon can address every type of person of course. And I do believe the Word does speak for itself. I think when we hear a sermon, we can go home and dig into the Word ourselves to hear what else God might like to speak to us. Absolutely. On Sunday I heard GH’s sermon twice, as well as WK’s sermon in the afternoon. In both instances, they did not give a 3-step plan to implement the taught principle into my life. Rather, they both gave me little snippets of thoughts to chew on (and likely, most people walked away with a different snippet than I did). That helped me walk away feeling as if I had something to work with.
In the above case, the teaching was not on a particular Scripture per se, but more a concept, and I walked away feeling that the concept was very important and I needed a “next step”, so to speak. That’s why I reached out and asked for some more practical advice.