On preaching: Dress it up or open it up?
Most of us pastors want to preach because we love God's Word, and we feel like we have a lot of valuable things to say about it. And, most likely, we do. Our temptation is to want to display our learning and our insights. As a friend of mine put it, we contend with the temptation to want to be profound. Or, as I put it, we want to "dress up" Scripture, treating it like a manikin that will look much more interesting if it is sporting the latest fashions.
Now don't get me wrong, I love to hear a well-crafted sermon. And sermon-making is an art form of the highest degree. However, I am still left with my observation that I seem to walk away from pastors' conferences remembering a Scripture someone expounded rather than the cool presentation someone else made of his or her own ideas.
Instead of "dressing up" Scripture, I like to think of "opening up" Scripture. There is so much wealth of heart-changing knowledge in the Bible that we can never completely mine its depths. Therefore, Scripture is interesting in its own right. What is more, Scripture is incredibly powerful for changing lives. God loves to speak through his Word. The most effective thing we can do is open up Scripture to one another so we may understand, appropriate, and respond to what God is saying.
We King's Harbor pastors attended the Catalyst pastors' conference last week, and one of the takeaways for me was a deceptively simple point made by pastor Mark Driscoll: "The Holy Spirit falls on God's people as the Word is preached." Driscoll was referring to the story of Peter preaching at Cornelius' house in Acts 10. The Spirit fell on Cornelius and his family even before Peter could finish his sermon, thus kicking off God's move to save the Gentiles. (Did you know that Peter preceded Paul in preaching to the Gentiles?) The point Driscoll wanted to make is that our part is to preach God's Word; his part is to change the hearts of people. As simple as that idea sounds, we pastors need to be reminded of it every now and then. I credit pastor Craig Groeschel with pounding home the same point at pastors' conferences. There are few things more encouraging to pastors than to hear that we can really preach the Word. We don't have to live under the pressure of "dressing up" Scripture; God is eager to work through us as we "open up" Scripture.