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Toxic preaching that confuses and wounds

"Christianity is not about how good we are, but how good God is." 

Are we sure about that?  [Even raising the question sounds heretical, doesn't it?]  As my friend Mike cautions, "Don't poke the bear..."  But what if the answer to the question is:  It depends on who the "we" is, in that statement. 

Part of the problem with preaching today is that it often has to be addressed to a large, diverse crowd, some of whom buy into the teaching of Jesus and some who are cautiously investigating.  The speaker/preacher ends up delivering a broad, cast-a-wide-net message that isn't oriented to any particular segment of the crowd [and ends up confusing everybody], or ends up covertly addressing the "unbeliever" in an attempt to evangelize them, though he appears to be addressing everybody.  [I used to be in that very position, so I understand the complexities.]

However, to preach or teach and not be clear with the crowd exactly to whom you are speaking [especially when making a statement like the one above] can have a bewildering and injurious effect.

For example, the above claim that:  "Christianity is not about how good we are, but about how good God is"  is true, but requires a clear caveat.  If you're a Christian who hears that statement, you might assume that your heart [your true nature] remains selfish and sinful --because it's not about "how good we are," according to that statement. 

This would in fact, be untrue and unbiblical for the Christian to believe.  The idea that the human heart is desperately wicked is true -- prior to a person entering the 'in-Christ' life.  After Jesus enters the person, he or she has a supernaturally and thoroughly-pure heart [true nature].  This is the classic notion of regeneration.

You can image the confusion many Christians have felt when hearing statements that are non-specific and unclarified like this.  The affect of such an unthoughtul approach to preaching (and a misunderstanding of Jesus' rescuing of the heart] leaves many who are technically free, but functionally bound, like Lazarus:  Invited into life, but unable to live freely, under the 'easy yoke.'  They don't know they've been made radically good; and their spirits break under the weight of poor preaching.

Can you think of other apparently 'Christian' statements that really need clarifying and a deeper undertanding?

Related post:

"How much do you know about 'grace?'

Video:  "How to Shame a Christian"

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Reader Comments (4)

Another problem with Evangelicalism of today is its addiction to the 'world's' acceptance. A specific case, I believe, is in its statistical verifiability of its marketing model/paradigm. Broadcast overkill and reap a predictable element from the masses. There needs to be a shift out of the marketing mode of 'pitching Jesus' to potential consumers. And in tandem with this, the bait-and-switch approach to salvation and sanctification is also confusing the 'churched.' It requires the 'convert' to "allow sin to control how you live' in direct contradiction to Rom 6:13 (for the prooftexters) Does God ever talk to the dead man, the one Paul encourages us to 'reckon dead.? Huh?

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRon T

Hey Ron -- so right: The bait and switch 'gospel' has become all about sin-management. God's approach rather, is to nourish and call out what is most *alive in us. Great point.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

Hey Jim,

Great post...

I never quite understood why preachers preach the way they do. It reminds me of an awful Bible study I once attended. I was bored to tears. The message every week was the same: You should accept Jesus....Really! Now there is no doubt that accepting the Lord is a great thing, but why was that the sole message of the study?

Finally one day, the associate pastor who was running the study began again with the same message..... I just couldn't help myself Jim....you know how I am...I just couldn't contain myself...week after weeek after week of the same thing ad nauseum...I had reached critical mass on the subject delivered in the same uninspired styled...ugh... So I had an unguarded moment... I sighed loudly, frowned, shook me head and put my face in my hands.... It was noticed---believe me!!!!! ha ha ha :0)

What I wanted was to get closer to the heart of God, although I didn't articulate it that way at the time. I was discouraged. To be taught that I am some kind of unworthy worm that is barely acceptable...despite the fact that I believe... Why in the world do people hang out in churches week after week with this stuff going on?


July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

Hey Meredith -- As your experience indicates, there's so much of the 'good news' that's gotten lost or dismissed from church teaching. Very sad.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

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