The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The preacher speaks a message that is intensely personal, yet also expansively global in scope.
When we preach, we present a perspective. When we preach, we provoke a perspective. Here are five perspective prompts to help us consider the perspective we give in our preaching:
1. God spoke vs God speaks
We need both perspectives. We need to know that God has definitively revealed and communicated his very being through the incarnation and the work of the Holy Spirit in revelation that we can access with confidence in our Bibles. That canonized revelation is priceless and people need to be confident that we can stake our life and eternity on what it says in The Book. At the same time we do not have a God who is far away and unengaged. As we engage with the Bible we are engaging with God in the present. Some preachers speak only as if God spoke long ago and far away. Others preach as if God’s voice is heard predominantly today apart from the Bible. Both extremes are problematic. God spoke and through that, God still speaks. Our mission is to offer both to our listeners.
2. My World vs The World
Ever since the Fall we have all fallen inward like human-shaped black holes. We naturally think our world is the whole world, when actually there is a whole lot going on beyond me. As a preacher you address both. You speak God’s Word into a personal sphere that God does, in fact, care deeply about. God’s personal love and concern for each of us is nothing short of astonishing. At the same time we all need to have our horizon expanded beyond the sphere of self to see there is so much more beyond my life, my issues, my concerns, my comfort. The preacher speaks a message that is intensely personal, yet also expansively global in scope.
3. Past vs Future
People live in the bubble of their present concerns. Preachers point outside of that bubble. We point back to the world of the Bible and God’s definitive invasion in the person of His Son. The incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension are all definitive points in past history. At the same time we point through preaching into the future to the historical moment when Christ will again enter into our world. Past events, future events, all shaping our present lives. Preachers point backwards and forwards and listeners need us to do both.
4. Under The Sun vs Under The Throne
We live our lives in light of what we can see, but there is more. The preacher points to both. As well as offering divine commentary and insight into the visible world around us, the preacher also pulls back the veil and shows the reality above. Stephen lived, preached and died in a terrifying whir of political tensions and angry voices, but above the sky there was a reality that he got to glimpse before his death – the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the throne on high. Daniel 7 is such an important passage – while we live in the raging foment of kingdoms rising and falling, terrifying the saints and waging war against them, all the while there is a higher throne, God is on it, and judgment is given into the hands of a human who is there at the side of the throne. We can live our lives and die our deaths in light of that reality … but preachers need to help people to see what is unseen.
5. Me vs Him
This may be the ultimate perspective issue in preaching. People naturally focus on themselves and yet do not see clearly. The preacher shines a light on the true self, and yet aims to draw the gaze of listeners away from self and to Christ.
In all of these ways preachers influence perspective through preaching. Does your preaching lean one way and not the other in any of these categories? Is there some perspective shift needed in you so that your preaching can bring about that good in others?