Subjectivity in Modern Preaching

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I was recently listening to a pastor preach on the importance of prayer in pastoral ministry. Prayer is certainly important in the life of a pastor (or any Christian). The context was that this pastor was teaching future pastors. Giving his time to such teaching is a great service. However, the text he used to make his point was Acts 1:13-14 and a few things just did not sit right with me.

And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:13-14 ESV)

After reading the Scripture he explained that this text shows the importance of prayer in the life of pastors. Maybe he wanted to substitute pastors for the Apostles and use a general principle of coming together for prayer. Yet what do we do with Mary, the other women, and Jesus’ brothers?

Further, the pastor inserted his view of how scared these uneducated men probably were when faced with going out and sharing the gospel. The comment was made that these men were so afraid that they were driven to prayer because they had nothing else to rely on but God.

Finally, the pastor attempted to stress the importance of prayer and such by repeatedly stating “I believe” about several items. While he may have had reasons to believe what he was stating his beliefs came across as fideistic.

My intent is not to tear down, but to make a few observations about how subjectivity can creep into preaching and teaching. The other issue is that this was a Southern Baptist teaching future Southern Baptists pastors.

I can’t help but wonder…Does this type of preaching add to the lack of critical thinking in local churches today? Does it facilitate a lack of apologetic desire and engagement? Does it promote fideism and encourage Christians not to think about what they believe and why? Does this type of preaching teach Christians to fall back on their feelings putting their hearts and minds at odds with each another?

Or maybe it’s just me.

Just thinking…

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tagged as , , in apologetics,Baptist,Church Issues,Sermons,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicholas Kennicott March 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm

While we are always prone to subjectivity in our preaching and cannot ever be 100% objective because of our sinful nature and lack of wisdom, Christians have become way too comfortable asking, “What do I think this means? What does it mean to me? How does this text fit the point I am making?” Instead of, “What does it mean.” It’s tempting to “make” the text fit sometimes, isn’t it?

This is one of the main reasons I stopped listening to a lot of (not all) the highly sought after conference preachers… they may be eloquent and convincing, but all too often their focus isn’t “The Lord says…”

2 Dan Smith March 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

This happens a lot. Even in seminary, where I would expect everything to be above board with biblical interpretation, professors and curriculum drum up things that aren’t in the Bible passage. It’s an epidemic that is honestly out of control. It definitely attemps to suggest the teacher is more important than the student and promotes checking the brain at the door. Drives me crazy.

3 Cathy M. March 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm

First of all, I had to look up fidiesm… (thanks for that.) Second, “yes” to every question. A theory of mine, formed from my cushy pew, is that this sort of proof texting must be intentionally taught in seminary since it represents the overwhelming majority of pulpit messages and teaching materials (Sunday School literature, VBS material…) in my corner of the SBC.

4 Nicholas Kennicott March 28, 2012 at 12:28 am

@Cathy – sounds like you might need to search for another corner…

5 Mark March 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

Thanks for the great comments, folks. I’ve been busy moving into our new house and finishing up with a few of the small items and apartment cleaning. Whew!

Nick, I agree with you on subjectivity and that is interesting reasoning on conference speakers.

Dan, you said, “It’s an epidemic that is honestly out of control.” Seems to be!

Cathy, you’re welcome for fidiesm. Nick has a good thought about changing corners, but then again he does live in Rincon. 🙂

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