We continue a series of posts called Preaching Proverbs for Planters. I’ve tapped several church planters to give one piece of advice to those of us who are, or will be, preaching in church planting contexts.
In 37 years of pastoral ministry, George Grant has planted five churches and has eaten untold hundreds of fellowship meals. Currently, he is the pastor-planter of Parish Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, TN. He blogs here. He also founded the Franklin Classical School and New College Franklin, where he continues to teach.
THE CHURCH GROWTH MOVEMENT
When I was in seminary, the “Church Growth Movement” was all the rage. Filled with uninformed enthusiasm, my peers tended to gobble up every fad and fancy that came down the pike: “Preach to felt needs;” “Aim at attracting seekers;” “Recast sermons into positive messages people can actually use.”
It was almost as if we’d caught the spirit of the age like a virus. It seemed that a plague of terminal trendiness would sweep paelo-church-planting-fogeies like me into the dustbin of irrelevance.
The result is that almost a generation later the difficult vocation of what Eugene Peterson has vividly dubbed “a long obedience in the same direction” is almost entirely missing from our lives, our preaching, and our churches.
Recovery seems to have replaced repentance; dysfunction seems to have replaced sin; drama seems to have replaced dogma; positive thinking seems to have replaced passionate preaching; subjective experience seems to have replaced propositional truth; psychotherapy seems to have replaced discipleship; the don’t-worry-be-happy jingle seems to have replaced the prepare-to-meet-thy-God refrain; the Twelve Steps seem to have replaced the One Way.
Today it seems that it is far better to be witty than to be weighty. As Ben Patterson has observed:, “Of late, evangelicals have out-liberaled the liberals, with self-help books, positive-thinking preaching, and success gospels.”
THE COURAGE TO PREACH THE WORD
So, what are we to do in the face of all this? Well, very simply, we must “Preach the word in season and out.” We must “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” And in order to do that, we will have to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong and let all that we do be done in love.”
After all, as Thomas Chalmers said so long ago, “Gospel preaching always requires great courage, both to execute and to tolerate, for it must ever needs be a running toward a lion’s roar.” Thomas Chalmers
What do you think? Do you think that preaching that “reproves, rebukes, and exhorts” can survive in a soft religious marketplace? Do you ever struggle to have truth coming through your personality without being a witty, entertaining ham? Leave a comment or question for George below.
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