Have you ever been to a church service where the preacher taught the “7 levels of this” or the “4 principles of that” with such veracity and force that you’d think there was some secret 67th book of the Bible he must have been reading from. You know, the sermon where the preacher pieces together a little of this Scripture and a little of the latest self-help to put together a compelling sermon that leaves you scratching your head as to where in the Bible he got it all from?
There used to be a time when I would sit around and talk with my buddies about how clever a sermon was or how the preacher brought out some nuance that everyone had missed for the last 2000 years of Christianity but that day is gone for me. Call me old fashioned, but when I go to church, all I want to say after the sermon is “Amen!”
I want to affirm the truth that’s been lifted from the pages of Scripture. I want to know how to apply it to my life right away. I want the Holy Spirit to use the timeless truth of God’s Word to speak directly to my situation without the preacher sacrificing orthodoxy for “relevance” as though him taking a text out of the last episode of Scandal would be more relevant to my life than the book God wrote.
When I leave church, I don’t want to have to explain what the preacher “was trying to say” because what he actually said was so convoluted or errant that I have to go into damage control to protect my impressionable young children who absorb every element of the worship service like a sponge—every song lyric, every joke, every praise break, every person speaking in tongues without an interpretation, every everything.
Granted, with a story as rich as the Bible, there ought to be some imagination applied to help readers really understand the context and appreciate that the people in the Bible were real historical people with real emotional and spiritual dilemmas. There ought to be principles that are extracted to build a bridge from what was to what it. There ought to be joy and exuberance in the worship of our God. But, can’t we have all that without veering from the Bible?