“What I liked about his preaching was that it was so conversational. I felt like he was one of us.”
These were the words that I heard recently as our staff was evaluating one of our young preachers who was subjected to the cruel and unusual torment of having to preach his trial sermon to our team. I wish I could say that this was the first time I heard a remark like this, but it’s not, in fact it’s becoming more and more frequent because it fits so well in our postmodern culture.
Postmodernism was originally linked to architecture, and it’s growing emphasis on community. For example, the way churches were built in years past reflected the values of the Enlightenment. These ancient buildings would have a pulpit down front, followed by rows and rows of pews organized in a very linear fashion. This style of building was intentional reflecting the dissemination of information that came from the speaker and filtered down a line throughout the congregation. Well, today churches are no longer being built in such a linear style that emphasizes knowledge, instead they are structured in more of a semi circle displaying, once again, our value of community and relationships. This architectural approach has also effected not only our view of the preacher, but the preacher himself.
In the age of the Enlightenment, the preacher was seen as an authority (if not the authority). Now in a postmodern era we view the preacher as one of the boys, a man just like us. It’s no secret that in postmodern culture we don’t like authority, thus the so called “compliments” on preaching when we say that someone’s style was very conversational, and we like that.
There’s just something in us that stiffens its back when it comes to authority, and this is a problem of biblical proportions.
If you have a problem with authoritative preaching you would not have liked Jesus as a preacher. The gospel writers go to great lengths to describe the impression that Jesus’ preaching made on his hearers:
“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teachings, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes”- Matthew 7:28-29.
“And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes”- Mark 1:22.
Jesus’ preaching was not the passing on of good advice, nor was it the dropping of deep truths to merely contemplate or consider. Jesus was not posturing himself as one of the boys offering a different take on things for us to chew on. No, his preaching was marked with authority.
Authority is not necessarily yelling or screaming, or even animation.
Authority is the confidence that what I am saying is the truth.
Authority is the understanding that what I am telling you is from the very mouth of God.
Authority is rooted in urgency- that the next 30 or so minutes that I have with you is a matter of life or death.
Authority is found in a speaker who actually believes that what he is saying is true and therefore he will take a bullet…will lay down his life for what he is telling you.
Authority could care less how you view me, or what your opinions are of my sermon.
Authority is consumed with the praise of God and not the applause of man.
God deliver us from whimpish, conversational, talk show host oriented, metro-sexual, fearful, cowardly “preaching”.
Preacher. Stop sharing and preach.