March 21, 2019
(Click here to view the PDF of the March 21 Newsletter)
From the Pen of our Senior Pastor…
Time for iSermons?
In my limited experience, many preachers, and many who teach preaching in American seminaries, are under duress. The reason for panic is the cultural transformation taking place before our eyes as Millennials (those born in the early 1980s to mid-90s) advance in the world, almost sidestepping entirely the church, leaving behind them the emerging Gen Z (those born after the mid-90s), who are growing up 100% digital and only negligibly churched. Many preachers are still studying literature on Millennials, and now comes a generation that most cultural commentators agree is radically different. Some preachers, with glazed pupils, stare at the pulpit and wonder what it’s for, and how it’s relevant.
Of course, as technology plays a more extensive role in virtually every aspect of human life, while the vocabulary and culture of the church becomes Sony Betamax, there’s an uneasy wobbliness among preachers. What was fringe culture just a decade ago has become cultural normality! Some preachers pine in confused longing for a former age that was understandable, back when coffee was just coffee, and gender was just gender. Some preachers, with furrowed intensity, happily turn the page of history to meet the new era with a new kind of preaching, new kind of pulpit, new kind of…everything.
However, there are many preachers free from panic. These do not think preaching today needs to be an electric Kool-Aid ride into the post-Tom Wolf digitized New Church. Yes, things are different now, but much has stayed the same. People are people (try not to think of the 1984 single), sin is sin, the need for redemption is the need for redemption, and the gospel is still the gospel.
Actually, preachers are fortunate in that they have always been called by God to enter a strange world to offer a message both welcoming and offensive. Consider that 61 words for preaching in the Bible come from the Greek word, keryx, or herald.
Jason Meyer, writing in Preaching: A Biblical Theology, says that a herald is a special steward of the King whose sole task is to proclaim the King’s words and intentions. Meyer cites a 10th century Greek lexicographer who says “a herald is in time of war what an ambassador is in peace.” The herald of the ancient world was not meant for seasons of peace, but seasons of enormous tension. During the period of the Greek city-states, a herald would enter a territory in advance of a waiting army, empowered either to accept surrender on behalf of his king or to declare war if those terms were rejected. The response of the audience would unleash two astoundingly different possibilities. There is an example of this in the war code of Deuteronomy 20 where Moses advises, “when you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it (Deuteronomy 20.10).”
A preacher of God has always been meant to enter into the world of a dangerous audience scratching and seething to place self on God’s own throne. The preacher heralds to this audience the King’s terms for everlasting peace, as well as, the King’s threat of judgment and everlasting damnation if the terms are rejected. God’s heralds were meant for our times, not because the herald understands everything about Millennial or Gen Z culture, but because the herald steadfastly understands the words and will of the King and speaks with earnest focus. I take delightful comfort that the King who spoke to placid Colossae was the same King who spoke to putrid Corinth, and the same King who speaks to the iPeople of today.
The preacher, then, is not to wonder what the pulpit is for or how it’s relevant, but to wonder that God would choose to save and nourish people through His word clearly preached and taught through a herald. The audience of today may know less about the Bible, and they may know less about the church. Explanation, clarity, and sharp focus on the text is necessary, but panic is not.