This is a really important consideration for our friends from the broader evangelical world as they come into contact with confessional Presbyterian and Reformed (P&R) worship. There is a high likelihood that those emerging from the broad evangelical traditions are addicted to a regular, even programmed release of dopamine and/or norepinephrine. It is not your fault. You are part of a tradition that dates to the mid-19th century. That tradition (represented and perfected by Charles Finney) discovered ways of manipulating people in public worship in order to move them from point A (the pew) to point B (the anxious bench).
Pastors have the unique privilege and obligation to bend the comfort of heaven into the hearts of their congregations. Yet, there seems to be a disparity between ought and is. In far too many cases, it seems, comfort becomes mere coaching.
Carl Trueman has a helpful essay in the current issue of Modern Reformation magazine. In “Reflections on the Reformed Resurgence,” Trueman takes stock of what we can learn about a movement within evangelicalism now over a decade old. Trueman introduces the Reformed resurgence in contrast to another significant trend within American Christianity at the time: It is now over a decade since Collin Hansen coined the term “young, restless, and Reformed” (YRR) to characterize a rising generation of Christians who had rediscovered the vitality of the central doctrines of the Reformation: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, and so on. What Hansen (then a journalist with Christianity Today) had noticed was that while much of the trendy Christian media attention focused on the emerging/emergent church, there was another vibrant strand of evangelical Christianity gaining momentum in the United States and beyond. While the emergent gurus, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones, were moving in a more non- and perhaps anti-doctrinal direction, other church leaders—John Piper, Tim Keller and so forth—were doing the opposite. They were …
Today I’m struck anew with how contrary to the world is the Christian life. I’m thinking specifically about how the world will almost without fail define the best way forward in life as the way of ease. That is, the path of least resistance is, by definition, the right path to choose.
Not so in God’s economy.
The Bible is full of reminders about how, in the call of God, things will be difficult rather than easy; complex rather than simple; strenuous rather than leisurely. Indeed, it’s not for no reason that the Bible often calls us to endure and persevere — conditions irrelevant for times of ease. (After all, no one “endures” a day at the beach.)
We get a powerful picture into why God orchestrates things this way when we remember Moses’ words of merciful warning to Israel in Deuteronomy 8:11-19…
If you were asked to isolate the “fundamental problem” in the evangelical world today, what would you say? I believe David Wells had it right when he outlined what ails contemporary American evangelicalism: The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging…
Country music artist Kenny Chesney has a song that sums up powerfully the current cultural milieu facing the Christian preacher. Appropriately named ‘Noise,’ Chesney laments our chaotic world of countless competing “voices” vying for our allegiance – a world full of noise . . .
A while back, I was preaching through the book of Ruth, and I highlighted that Boaz demonstrated himself to be a profoundly godly and extraordinary man. I said this because he, first, knew the law and, second, went beyond it when he allowed Ruth to glean under his watchful care. Then I said, “And you’ll never know why Boaz is so extraordinary if you don’t know Leviticus. For that matter, you can’t really understand your Bible unless you know Leviticus. That’s why it’s my favorite book of the Bible.”
The Tortoise wins.
I remember hearing Aesop’s famous fable The Hare & the Tortoise as a little boy and thinking, “I’d still like to be the hare. After all, the tortoise may win, but who wants to be a tortoise?”
Many years later I’ve reconsidered, especially when it comes to pastoral ministry. If there ever was a vocation wherein “the race is not to the swift,” it’s the pastorate. A faithful shepherd will . . .
I recently had a student tell me that he preached in a church in Tennessee that had him speaking from a platform that turned into the equivalent of an IMAX experience for the congregation. The technology allowed him to “take” his listeners to places like outer space and the holy land of Israel with moving, high-definition digital images, changing weather patterns, and movie-theater quality sound. As he was selling me on this experience and the value of it for all churches, I kept thinking to myself, “In all this noise, how could they hear a word he said?” But being distracted from my student’s words is not the biggest risk of using technology in preaching. The greater danger is missing God himself. My theology of preaching understands the preaching exercise as nothing less than a monologue from heaven. In other words, the expositor (peaching as monologue from God requires exposition of biblical texts) is a messenger for God as he heralds the truth of any particular biblical passage. This, of course, is how the apostle …