In a recent article for Christianity Today, Yawning at the Word, Mark Galli tells of what seems to be a growing trend in evangelical churches. The article opens with this auspicious story:
When I preach, I often quote the Bible to drive home my point. I think it more persuasive to show that what I'm saying is not merely my opinion but a consistent theme of Scripture. And to avoid the impression that I'm proof-texting or lifting verses out of context, I quote longer passages—anywhere from 2 to 6 verses.
When I did this at one church, a staff member whom I'd asked for feedback between services told me to cut down on the Scripture quotations. "You'll lose people," he said.
The stories continue, and Galli continues:
It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don't spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.
It's easy to see how this culture has profoundly reshaped the dynamics of preaching and teaching. All the demands have been placed on the shoulders of the preacher, so anxious are we to meet needs and stay relevant. No longer are listeners asked to listen humbly to the proclamation of God's Word, in all its mystery and glory. To be sure, we want the preacher to begin with the Word—we're Christians after all—but only as a starting point, and only as long as he moves on to things that really interest us.
Though Galli is frustrated by this trend, he is not so hard on it as I might be. Galli rightly notes that the Scriptures ought to be at the core of our churches and our teaching, and that our congregations should learn a proper respect for the place and power of the very word of God. I am finishing a great little book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach, and I will have more to say about this topic in a review.
But here, in keeping with the spirit of evangelical relevance and keeping my use of the Word to a minimum, may I say this. If you have taught your church to be comfortable with Scripture in the background behind your illustrated sermons, flashy power points and tips for success…