Driven by the Word

Recent research has found some troubling trends in America. One trend that ought to cause us great concern is that since 1991 the number of unchurched in our country has almost doubled. The adult population has grown by 15 percent but the number of adults who do not attend church has risen from 39 million to 75 million. In light of this growing secularism many voices within the church have offered a variety of remedies. Some of the most popular remedies offered have resulted in a diminishing of the Word of God in the pulpits of our churches. We are told that to simply preach expositionally from the Bible is “boring” and “not relevant to the needs of modern Americans.” The result has been a church that is fascinated by fads and captivated by the trendy. We should not be surprised by the growing secularization within the church. We have thrown away the preaching of the Word in favor of “talks” driven by the latest fads in therapy, management, and personal growth. Ironically, by aping cultural trends we have sown the seeds of our own irrelevance. Is it any wonder that statistics show little or no difference between the lifestyles of those who call themselves Christians and those who do not? The remedy is not to be skilled at adopting or even adapting the techniques of the world but rather to once again affirm our reliance upon that which is unchanging.

Perhaps a letter from Bose that explains the superiority of their sound will illustrate my point:
“We strive to reproduce the musical sounds as closely as possible to those of the original performance. And we strive to avoid flashy sounds such as those associated with accentuated bass and/or treble frequencies. While these sounds may be initially attractive to the novice, they are not real and are not enduring.”
I can tell you from personal experience that the “initially attractive” sounds emanating from our culture can be very attractive to a pastor seeking to reach people. But where is our confidence? Do we trust the enduring Word of God? Do we believe that modern Americans are too sophisticated or too shallow to receive God’s Word taught and preached? Sadly, if one were to take a tour of the average evangelical church in America today the signs of the temporal and the flashy would be abundant.

I have often bemoaned the growing consumerist mindset in the church today. “If you want me to come to your church then offer me the goods and services I demand.” Pastors, wanting to preside over a large congregations, easily give in to the demands of parishioners-turned-customers. One recent article I read noted, “When people see themselves as the purpose and center of life, the church becomes a store of sorts where they can shop what the church has to offer and settle on the best value: which church gives the most to me while requiring the least from me?”

I don’t mean to sound simplistic but the remedy for this is found in the Bible. Divinely inspired, unerringly authoritative, and timelessly relevant, the Bible, through the power of the Holy Spirit, provides for the church both the content of our instruction and the measuring rod for our ministries. For the self-absorbed consumerist God’s Word says, “Whoever loses his life for Me (Jesus) will find it.” For the pastor wondering about the relevance of preaching the Bible says, “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” For the church wondering about the relevance of the Bible I offer these words from II Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Contrary to the shallow thinking in much of the church growth movement, the faithful and passionate preaching of God’s Word has great appeal to a generation that has lost its moorings. Our culture’s immersion in technology and the banal has heightened rather than lessened the relevance of a man standing to proclaim: “Thus says the Lord.” The current conditions of our world have made a real flesh and blood person faithfully teaching God’s Word to a small group or Sunday School class as needful as it has ever been. In an age that seems to have no category for a grand, divinely ordered narrative that guides our existence, the need is great for a church who points to a source of authority outside itself. God’s Word must drive our preaching, our teaching, our discipleship, our praying, and our fellowship. I know of no other way to be faithful to our calling to be a city set upon a hill.