You can’t run around in Baptist churches for long without hearing a pastor talk about how “some other churches” are watering down the truth. I am sure you have heard a pastor say this before. In my experience it is rarely ever aimed at a place that is actually watering down the truth, instead it is aimed at some place that is presenting the truth differently.
I get frustrated when preachers assume that the only way to honestly present the truth of the Bible is in a sermon. I actually think that a sermon is about the worst way to present it to a modern congregation–especially if you are trying to take a text and really get deep inside of it. A small group setting works much better for actually digging into the Bible. But not only that I believe that there are many other ways to present the truths of the Bible apart from preaching and most of these can make a deeper impact that a sermon. A skit can help us to see how text applies to our modern day life. A prayer activity can help us to focus and make the text personal, and art can express things that we can’t say with words. Each of these things do a better job of letting the “living and active” word of God into our lives and transform us.
I may be really messed up in this, but I think that a sermon should be more than just a time to lay out facts. It should be more than just a time of teaching, because if all it is is teaching then a small group setting where participants can ask questions and dialog is much more effective. No, a sermon should take the text and present it in a way that inspires, that challenges, that brings about transformation. We are not preaching just to make sure our audience knows what is in Psalm 145 but rather how the unsearchable greatness of God can transform our lives, or cause us to worship or just stand in awe of His presence.
I say this because I found myself in a very “us against them” mode in my prep for tomorrow night. It is so easy to do that isn’t it? It is easy to say, “The world says that God is dead! But I say He’s alive!” and get a big response. It is much more difficult to open your audiences eyes to the fact that God died for the “them” that we are railing against. As pastors it is sometimes easy to point fingers at those outside of the church. It is much harder to follow Jesus and open up our hearts and churches to them.