How Do Pastors Preach in a Changing Culture?
Last week I posted some thoughts about living as Christians in a quickly changing culture. But what about pastors? How should we preach?
I sat down this morning to a cup of coffee and Galatians. Our congregation is taking six weeks to dig deep into Paul's defense and clarification of the Gospel. I can't wait. This is good, meaty, joyful, Gospel stuff. And this is exactly what we should be preaching all the more in a changing culture. This is exactly what I and the people we serve need to hear - good news.
I was reminded of this the other day when I came across a brief post by Jared Wilson on The Gospel Coalition. He offered a timely, much-needed corrective to pastors and their pulpits:
A word to my pastor friends, who every week labor in preparing to teach the Bible in the weekend gathering while the dark cloud of the new cultural downgrade hangs over them:
Brothers, don’t go about your weekly sermon preparation and personal discipleship in sackcloth and ashes. Get into the vineyard of God’s Word, get some holy sweat worked up, whistling while you work, lifting your hearts in worship. Get into the kitchen of study and prep and start putting together the banquet. And come Sunday, spread the feast out rich and sumptuous for us, beckoning us to taste and see that the Lord is good. We don’t need your doomsdaying or dimbulbing. Still less do we need your shallow pick-me-ups and spit-polished legalism. Like our brother Wesley, set yourselves on fire with gospel truth that your church family might come watch you burn.
And when you gather Sunday with the flock, shepherd us to repentance and sincerity, reminding us of the holy God who welcomes us with sin-forgetting forgiveness. When we enter the worship gathering, let us not look back to the ruins lest we all become the wrong kind of salt. Let us look forward to the new Jerusalem, where our citizenship is secured even today and evermore. Get your wits about you and take heart, for our Lord has overcome the world. Yesterday, today, Sunday, and forever. Frighten the kings of the world and shake the kingdom of the devil with how resolute you are in abandoning yourselves to the mighty God.
Your churches don’t need your hand-wringing but your hand-raising. We need your deep, abiding, all-conquering, sin-despairing gospel joy. This and this alone is the hope of the world.
In other words, keep the Gospel central! I can't think of a better book to accomplish that task than Paul's letter to the Galatians.
I'm reminded also of C.F.W. Walther's counsel to his seminary students on the topic of preaching:
The word of God is not rightly divided when the person teaching it does not allow the Gospel to have a general predominance in his teaching...
The ultimate aim in our preaching of the Law must be to preach the Gospel...
Do not become ministers who vex and torture the people, filling them with uncertainty and causing them to go home from church heavy-hearted....
As pastors, we definitely need to warn. Paul did so emphatically (Acts 20). But let's not vex and torture people with reminders about cultural and political chaos. Let's send people home, and into a hostile world, with good news that makes the heart alive. In short, let's preach the Gospel.