Just the other day, I had a discussion with a good friend. He was expressing his frustration with the popularity of certain Christian media personalities who have the ability to attract enormous crowds, sell millions of books and take in vast offerings, without seemingly having the capacity to make a single decent Biblical or theological point when they preach.
Some people seem to think that we need to adjust our preaching in a downward direction in order to accommodate the fact that we live in the age of attention deficit. It’s a little bit like the idea that the purpose of a youth group is mainly to provide light spiritual entertainment for teenagers who would never have the ability to sit in church and listen to a proper Biblical message. Doing this, I suspect, will produce a generation of youth group graduates who want to be entertained the rest of their lives. Or a generation of millennials who are checking their phone throughout whatever shreds of truth are left coming out from behind the pulpit.
Instead of calling people up, all too often we dumb our message down to the pretty low level we think they are at.
I recently spent an evening with several young Bible College students. They were not PhD candidates, just ordinary nineteen-year-olds who love the Lord. First off, we had a lengthy discussion about one of the seven churches in Revelation. Among other things, we talked about about whether God promises us spiritual and/or physical protection in the midst of suffering, what true Israel really means, and how the New Testament interprets the Old. Then we launched into a long conversation about the meaning of predestination and free will, the doctrines of eternal security (perseverance of the saints) and the unlimited foreknowledge of God and in general, the difference between Reformed and Arminian theology.
It goes without saying that we did not reach any more complete answers to these questions than the last two thousand years of Christian wisdom has produced. But at least we hashed through the issues, and I was able to make a reasonable case for what I believe, which is that God’s sovereignty is the greatest asset any of us has in this life or the next. And I think they came out of the evening a bit better equipped to understand the Christian faith and to lead others in it than when we started.
The church is not meant to be an extension of Bible College. I understand that. But the job of the preacher, as my Dad told me many years ago, is to take the most profound truth in the world and express it in a way that people can understand and live by. And you can’t do that by shredding it of most of its content.
You can entertain people with ten minute motivational messages and lots of video clips, but you’ll never disciple them that way. And make no mistake: peoples’ actions are directly related to their level of understanding of truth.
Paul makes this very point when he talks to the Corinthians about infants who have never made it to the solid food level. That’s what is causing everything from petty divisions to gross immorality to lawsuits between believers. And in fact, if you read on, it winds up with people coming under the judgment of God and dying. Yikes, folks, this is serious stuff! And it all started with dumbing down the teaching.
So let’s not dumb people down, let’s call them up.
And when you can define the precise relationship between predestination and free will, let me know.
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