This Culture is Overrated
January 1, 1997
Recently I led a group of pastors in a discussion about our preaching. When I asked, "What areas would you like help with in your preaching?" most responded with:
—"I want help in making connection with my listeners, relating the gospel to their everyday lives."
—"I want to preach sermons that really hit my people where they live."
—"I want to preach in a way that is real, that addresses real-life concerns people have."
In sum, these pastors wanted to preach in a way that addressed their culture.
There was a time when I would have agreed this was one of the primary purposes of Christian preaching-to relate the gospel to contemporary culture. However, I have come to believe that is our weakness rather than our strength. In leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear we may have fallen in.
Most of the preaching I have heard in my own church family struggles to relate the gospel to the modern world. When we sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the new, modern world, the traffic was moving only in one direction on that bridge. It was always the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like, "This relates to me," or, "I'm sorry, this is really impractical," or, "I really can't make sense out of that." It was always the modern world telling the Bible what's what.
But this way of preaching fails to do justice to the rather imperialistic claims of Scripture. The Bible doesn't want to speak tto the modern world; the Bible wants to convert the modern world.
We who may have lived through the most violent century in the history of the world-based on body counts alone-ought not to give too much credence to the modern world. The modern world ...