26/02/2018 by Chris Green

A friends and I were talking about a preacher whom we both knew and thought of highly.  We agreed he was always clear, intelligent and winsome.

‘But,’ I said, ‘if you notice, you only ever hear him preach from one of the gospels, never the Old Testament, or an epistle.’

‘And’, chipped in my friend,’ only part of the gospels too.  He’ll tell you that God loves you, includes you, accepts you as you are.  He’ll tell you about change, and the Holy Spirit.  He does that very well. But he’ll never warn you of judgement, or the dangerous nature of sin.’

And we paused.

Because we both knew that if you always preach love, but never judgement, you haven’t actually preached biblical love, just your unbiblical sentimentalism. You’re off-centre, and dangerously so.

Your car mechanic will tell you, rightly, if your wheels need balancing.   Your doctor will tell you if your blood, or heart, or insulin levels are out of balance. Off centre is dangerous.

Who will tell you if your preaching is off-centre?

Four questions pop into my mind – at least four.balance-2121323_1920

  • First, if people had to summarise the core element of my preaching, what would they say it was?
  • Second, if people had to summarise what I never, or rarely preach about, what would they say?
  • Third, is that imbalance just a consequence of what you happen to be preaching through, or is it a genuine bias? Is that intentional or unintentional on my part?
  • Fourth, at what point does that imbalance stop being my loveable eccentricity, and become a dangerous deviation from biblical norms? Or, better, where do I suspect my dangerously weak points might be?

For ‘I’, read ‘you’. Take a moment to ponder whether your critics might be right.

5 thoughts on “Off-centre?

  1. Tim Gamston says:

    Hi Chris, not sure if it helps … but one of my pastors had a list of doctrines that he wanted to make sure he covered every six month and when he had preached on a doctrine he ticked it off. It was his way of seeking to be intentional in ensuring he didn’t preach “pet subjects”.

  2. Chris Green says:

    Interesting idea, Tim – one way of making sure we don’t get eccentric. I know preachers who are predictable in the dog whistles they use!

  3. Richard Bray says:

    Systematic expository preaching will help, of course – our hearers should spot if we’re not doing justice to the passage; and we are trying to cover a mixed diet of scripture.

  4. Phill says:

    Part of the problem with blind spots is – we don’t know what they are by definition! I’m not sure whether the congregation would necessarily be the right people to ask. Maybe why it’s good to have accountability with other ministers and input from conferences etc.

    I agree that expository preaching is immensely helpful. In the last year or two I’ve preached on money and pornography – two subjects which I would normally run a mile before mentioning in church!

    I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about the value of systematic theology – in our home group we’ve just spent some time working through a book on Christian Doctrine, and there are also things like the New City Catechism available now. I wonder whether some kind of systematic framework like that from time to time would be helpful to iron out our blind spots?

    • Chris Green says:

      Yep, Catechisms and Systematics work. So do sermon prep groups, if you listen to each others preached sermons from time to time. And a mature member of the church, who respects and loves you enough to point out if you’re going off on one (again) is worth having!

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