Sunday, November 6, 2011

Is your pastor REALLY preaching God's Word to you?

Is your pastor REALLY preaching God's Word to you?

That may seem like a silly question.  I mean, you go to the church service, open your Bible, listen for 30-45 minutes, have an invitation and then go home - of course he is preaching God's Word isn't he?

I would like to explore that question by giving you an illustration that Pastor Mark Minnick used while instructing a room full of preachers what it is to preach God's Word.  He said if you were studying topography and were sent to a certain mountain to bring back a report on that mountain, you would go and study the mountain and write the report on things like size, height, mass, number of trees, texture, type of rocks, etc.  You would DISCOVER and write the report.  What you would not do is CREATE.  There is no creation to be done.  The mountain is already there, you just need to discover what is there are present it in a report.  This is preaching.

Unfortunately, there are many sermons that are created instead of being discovered in the Bible text itself.  God has already presented the thought patterns, context, points, structure, flow, argumentation, etc.  A Pastor's sermons should mirror the exact thought patterns and argumentation of a certain passage or paragraph of Scripture or he is not really preaching God's Word.  He is preaching a Dr. Frankenstein experiment of his own creation.  He is combining cliche's and folk truth that he has heard to present 35 minutes of a so called sermon that everyone leaves saying "that was acceptable, or he really got going, or that was really good (creation)".  This is not preaching God's Word.

Sermons that truly mirror the argument of each paragraph of Scripture sometimes are shocking and even tough to ingest because they are Divine Argument.  God often does not go to the cliche' Sunday School answer in the next verse.  He goes where His divine heart would go.  That is tough for some pastors because it doesn't sound like "3 points and a poem" like happens in most pulpits.

But when we preach this way, something incredible happens:  people change.  Cliche' preaching of repeating "ear candy" sayings and rhymes does not change people because it is man's word.  God's thinking changes people.

I am not saying there is no place for Topical sermons - but those topical sermons had better be preached with contextual understanding.  That means the preacher doesn't just string together rapid fire verses to support his point - he carefully searches out scripture that connects to the subject he is preaching and DISCOVERS God's mind on it and then preaches it carefully using the key passages of Scripture using the verses in such a way as to perfectly preserve the verse in the meaning God meant for it to mean in the context it was plucked from.  Frankly, even Topical preaching is best done by going to the key passages and preaching them in their own contexts.

Here are some telling questions to answer the original question of if your pastor is REALLY preaching God's Word to you:

1.  Does he take you to the passage he is preaching in your Bible and explain the context?

2.  Does he get the "points" of his sermon from the points God makes in the Bible paragraph?

3.  Is the argument flow of his sermon the same as you can read right there in the Bible on your lap?

4.  Does he often refer to phrases/words in the passage as he preaches (this indicates he is following the passage as he preaches...this is very good)

5.  Is he skipping verses as he preaches?  (this is not good.  Why is he skipping what God wrote?  Why is he not following the flow God did in the verses?)

6.  Are you hearing the same popular verses over and over?  (this is bad...he needs to preach the whole Scripture.  There are 66 books, why are you hearing the same verses?)

7.  Is he explaining the modern meaning of words?  (this is essential - the Hebrew and Greek are not always played out by our translations.  The preacher definitely needs to clearly define words that God gave originally by inspiration.)

8.  If you read the same Bible passage later, can you recall the sermon.  It should "mirror", so the sermon should be easy to recall.  If it is DISCOVERY, it will look the same as the passage.  If it is "Creation", there is no telling what monster may emerge. 

I do hope this helps challenge pastors to do their job and congregants to seek a church that preaches the very Word of God.