Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Preaching for "Old People"?

I have a friend from college who, when talking about where we both went to church, said that he felt like his “seeker-sensitive” church worked well for him while he was in his twenties. “Maybe when I’m older with kids I’ll go to a church that’s more ‘conservative’, but right now this really meets me where I’m at in life.”

Unfortunately this is a common way of thinking for some people in my generation. Though I am greatly encouraged and strengthened by the rise of young adults embracing reformed theology and holding to the Bible (and for my own church’s commitment to it as well), I can’t ignore the mass of men and women who think that expository preaching is for “old people.”

We put expository preaching into a generational box: the twenty-something’s and younger need stories, the boomers need the preaching. We like relational, communal, topical sermons that meet our “needs” and someday we will gravitate towards sermons, but that’s only when we have kids, right?

This is a devastating predicament that we find ourselves in. If we allow our youth and college groups to be filled with men who simply pay lip-service to God and vaguely throw around Bible verses, we are not teaching the next generation of pastors the importance and power of the Word of God exposited. We are not teaching them to defend the faith when we do not teach them that the Bible really is all they need.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I’ve seen too many rooms of college students silenced and attentive when a godly man open up the Bible and preaches with authority to think that this is not a relevant issue for our day. There is power in the Scriptures that cannot be recreated with stories or funny anecdotes.

Preaching doesn’t just start when we have a family—it starts when our families are young. Reverence for the Word of God in our young people comes from a pulpit that upholds the Scriptures and from parents who teach their children that this book is not merely a book a stories—it is the very word of our great God.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Nehemiah 8 when the Israelites asked Ezra to read them the Book of the Law and explain it to them. It wasn’t just adults who came and heard the book read, children “and all who could understand what they heard” (vs. 2b). They stood the entire time the book was read, even their children. These people are a conviction to my sinful soul. I don’t stand when I hear preaching. I sit in a comfortable pew. Often times I get distracted. But these ancestors of the faith were desperate for the Word of God. They begged for the book! We’ve come a long way from the days of the exiles.

And so, I wonder sometimes if the reason why so many of our young people are so flippant with the Word of God and so biblically illiterate is because they have never been taught that the “Word of God is living and active, sharper than an two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). It holds the power to save and it contains all we need for life and godliness.

I am so grateful for the faithful men who have opened up the Bible and taught it to me, and for parents who taught me that all we need is the Bible, even when I complained about all of the family times we had to spend listening to sermon tapes. The lessons I learned and the truth that was implanted in my heart is invaluable, and eventually brought me to repentance. May our churches continue to recover the power of preaching, not just in the lives of adults, but in the lives of our young people as well.

5 comments:

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

I'm frustrated. I just left a highly-disorganized thought that will be lost forever, since it didn't post! I'll reprocess and try again:
I've been disillusioned with my church and many churches I've visited for this same reason. Too often, the focus is on me and how I can use God as a crutch/Get-out-of-jail-free card. I think that sermons should help me learn how to love God more, and instill in me the desire to come nearer to Him.
It seems as though a revolution is brewing among those of us who are frustrated with the current state of Christendom. The whole format has become something distorted, a well-meant attempt to mass-market. But it's like trying to teach elementary school with only feature films and pop music.

stellerblue32 said...

i think that since i have grown up under the teachings and theology of pastor John, it is easier for me to say that preaching for "old people" DOES apply to all ages, even if it is hard to understand at the time. i just recently attended a conference at Bethel college where Greg Speck spoke, and the thing that really stood out to me was when he said that the purpose of preaching isnt to make us feel good about ourselves, or to have fun, but to learn about the greatness of our God and to glorify Him, and the way God has given us to do that is the Bible, so it just makes sense that we use that tool and dig as deep as we can into it, even if that means it doesnt always give us personal satisfaction, because in the long run, i think it will help us understand things that without that knowledge, we wouldnt even begin to grasp. i dont really know what im trying to say. i guess i just feel like people have started to think that they know whats best for themselves and only want to learn things that make them feel good inside, and not things that are either hard to understand, or hard to apply.

cdt said...

Steve,

Thank you for posting. I appreciate your comments. I think we are doing ourselves a great disservice by advocating for and flocking to churches that do not truly preach the Gospel. I think often times we think of the Gospel as only for non-believers and then somehow we can move on to something else--like finance management, or relationship building, instead of just good, old fashioned preaching the Gospel. Luther used to tell his people that he preached the Gospel week after week because week after week they forgot it and came in looking like people who didn't understand the Gospel. That is us. We forget it. We look like people who don't understand the Gospel which is why we must preach it to ourselves and sit under godly men who preach it to us.

Don't lose heart Steve. There are churches around here who are faithful to preaching Scriptures. I would try Bethlehem Baptist. Also, there is a rise among our generation of young people who see that the old ways aren't working and they hunger for Christ. This is encouraging.

Thank you for entering the discussion. It encourages me!

cdt said...

Katie,

Thank you for your comment. I always appreciate hearing from you. You are very blessed to have sat under Pastor John your entire life. I pray that God uses the truth that all of you have heard your entire life and multiplies it a thousand fold!

I agree with your statement. I posted on that same sentiment on my comment to Steve.

Thanks again!