Saturday, February 02, 2008

Monologue or Exposition?

The sermon today has taken on something of the role of the monologue of a late-night talk show host, but not as funny. Its purpose seems to be to sustain a dialogue between the pastor and the congregation for the purpose of building relationships, fostering group identity and comity, and providing a port-of-entry for newcomers. If the dialogue is interesting, pleasant, and generally uplifting, the partners will continue their conversation for the foreseeable future. Church members might even be encouraged to invite their friends to join in, and visitors will be made to feel right at home from the get-go. And because the sermon is only a dialogue, a context for congregational conversation, it can’t be expected to carry much of the “disciple-making” weight. So the church multiplies programs, staff, and training contexts, cafeteria-like, so that members can pursue their interests and needs in as many ways as possible.
If the quote above describes the type of church you are currently attending I would suggest that you pray for God to guide you to a church that is more like the quote below.

The sermons of those early American preachers followed the format laid down by their forebears: careful exposition of words and phrases in their context; detailed explanation and theological argument; spare and strictly impersonal illustration (Jonathan Edwards seems never to have told a personal anecdote concerning himself or his family); specific and unapologetic application to the circumstances of the congregation; and a call for submission to the evangelical demands of the text. These colonial preachers were eloquent, passionate, learned men; they expected their congregations – largely comprised of unschooled farmers, shop owners, tradesmen, and a handful of learned professionals – to understand their meanings and bring their lives into line with the demands of Scripture. And, to their credit, those church members, by and large, did.

Quotes taken form an article that appeared at titled Recovering Preaching from Adequacy by T. M. Moore

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