Preaching the Bible
It seems to me that there are two basic approaches to preaching the Bible. Let’s call the first the ‘Should’ position and the second the ‘Right’ position.
‘Should’ preachers use the Bible in order to tell their listeners what they ‘should’ do, how they ‘should’ live, what kind of faith they ‘should’ have and how they ‘should’ be attending meetings and telling others about the Gospel. ‘Should’ preaching makes the Bible all about ‘Us’. ‘Right’ preachers seek to lead their listeners to God through the pages of the Bible in order to encounter Him and His Glory. ‘Right’ preaching makes the Bible all about God.
Two passages in the Gospels help illustrate these two approaches. In the first Jesus stills the storm after waking from sleep in the boat. ‘Should’ preachers will tell you that this passage teaches us that Jesus stills the storms of our lives ‘should’ we just look to Him with faith and trust. ‘Right’ preachers take up the response of the disciples in the boat as the purpose of this narrative. The disciples are amazed at what they have just witnessed and ‘Right’ preachers make this an account of the glory and majesty of Jesus.
The second concerns the widow and her mite. ‘Should preachers’ will tell you that this passage teaches you to ‘give all that you have to God, even if it’s not a great deal’. ‘Right’ preachers will tell you that this observation made by Jesus when he was visiting the Temple reflects the nature and character of God, a God who notices the unnoticed, values the unvalued and rejoices in His people for their hearts and not for their pockets.
Why do ‘Should’ preachers preach the way they do? More importantly why do God’s people put up with it? Many tell me that they leave their church feeling worse following a ‘should’ sermon they’ve had preached to them than when they arrived. I wonder if there’s something dark lurking in the psyche of some Christians as a result of which a ‘should’ sermon is thought to be the right thing even though it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be thought of as ‘Good News’. I’m reminded of the cry of Isaiah: ‘My people love to have it so’.