Home > Simply Church > Simply Church: My Issues #3

Simply Church: My Issues #3

I have a lot of friends that give sermons regularly. They give sermons of varying length, in varying churches, to people of varying ages. One question that has been posed to me on numerous occasions goes something like this: “Can you think of a verse that says ________ or talks about issue ________ or confirms point A?” Asking about verses is fantastic, but they are not asking because they really want to read the passage, interpret it, and communicate that interpretation. They already know what they want to say and they want to back up what they say with Scripture.

I’ve heard hundreds of messages like this. I’ve heard hundreds of sermons where the preacher primarily is communicating his or her thoughts on a topic and then using Scripture to provide evidence for what he is saying. They are doing their best to preach topics that they think are the most relevant to their audience. They are teaching their own philosophy coming from their personal experience and Scripture becomes a way to try to prove that what they are saying is true.These teachers are trying to teach their audience something that will be helpful for them in their daily lives. The concern for the hearers is admirable. What they teach comes from a worldview influenced by the culture of Christianity that they have experienced. A lot of great things are said to the audience.

But, I think this is a crazy way to teach. It’s well intentioned. It probably has a lot of positive effects. I’m sure it often communicates a relatively biblical worldview. But it’s backwards. This manner of teaching involves the teacher using Scripture to teach what they think is true. The goal of the teacher, preacher, or sermoneer should be to teach Scripture, not to teach something that is backed up by Scripture. The starting point should be interpreting Scripture and a sermon should be constructed around that interpretation of Scripture, rather than starting at one’s own philosophy and including Scripture because its in church and should have some Bible verses that seem to agree. The Bible is not an author to quote to evidence a perspective, but it is the book should be the primary force shaping our perspective. The commonplace of proof-texting negatively affects this.

There’s a lot of other issues with teaching that have bothered me over the years, but the one discussed above has seemed the most prominent and the one that has done the most to undermine, manipulate, and neglect Scripture. As this complaining has been a cathartic process for me, I’m going to go ahead and mention other manners of teaching that have bothered me.

I don’t like it when people speak in absolutes about things that aren’t biblical absolutes. You’re just making assumptions dude to try to make your words sound more authoritative, dramatic, or meaningful. I don’t like it when people add to scripture or biblical stories things that the stories don’t say because they think they’re true. I’ve heard things about Joseph dying when Jesus was young, outcries before God that Scripture doesn’t talk about, etc. There is also a tendency to look at a text with the immediate goal of finding a life application without first finding what the author intended scripture to mean. The question posed to Scripture is “What do these verses mean to me?” or “What do these verses mean to the congregation?” instead of simply, “What are these verses trying to communicate?”

I think I’ve gotten most of it out. Thanks for listening.

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