“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”—–2 Timothy 4:1-2 (emphasis mine)
“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”—–1 Timothy 4:13 (emphasis mine)
A while back a buddy of mine and I were meeting quite often for lunch to talk about about the things that were going on in the world and more importantly the things we had been noticing going on within the Christian world and the Church. One lunch was particularly interesting when we ended up talking about how it seemed that many churches had or were shifting away from true Biblical preaching and embracing topical and sermon series’ type preaching. It was an amazing realization to try and think if we knew of any churches who haven’t gone to this style of preaching.
You may be asking what is so wrong with having topical or sermon series?? At the core of this style is a great difference of where one begins as they prepare for a sermon. True Biblical preaching begins by going to the Bible wanting to be taught about who God is and what He desires for His people without trying to add our own personal insights. Topical and sermon series’ preaching begins with the speaker’s perceived ideas, opinions, and illustrations and then seeks to find passages of Scripture to support their agenda. In essence topical/sermon series’ preaching is simply working backward and opposite from true Biblical preaching.
Another way to look at it is that topical/sermon series’ preaching starts with a concept people may face today, maybe something along the lines of “Struggles parents have with their kids and the strains it puts on their marriage”. The pastor or leader comes up some catchy title for the series and how many messages they want or think they can preach on the topic. Most tend to be somewhere in the 4-8 week range. They get their staff, or if they are really cutting edge their “Creative Pastor”, to put together the artwork, videos, interviews, etc. for this set of messages. The pastor or leader meanwhile works to formulate their set of messages around a nicely packaged set of sermon titles to fit with the overall theme and tries to find some Biblical lessons that fit what they want to say each week. After thinking of some Biblical lessons, the pastor or leader next tries to find the exact verses or passages of Scripture they want to use and peppers them within their messages; not leading with Scripture, but using Scripture for their purpose. Finally in anticipation of the launch, the pastors and leaders try to create a buzz with flyers, encouraging everyone to bring all people they know, and trying to get everyone on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what is to come.
This all sounds really nice and appealing, but this is a great perversion of what we really should be focusing on; reading and studying the Bible to know God and His Way without the need to create a self-help gospel that we think is more attractive to the masses. Much topical preaching and sermon series’ may end up sounding like Biblical preaching because, hey, “they use Scripture” so it has to be right. And although it may be true that some of what they say may be in accordance with God’s Word, isn’t what is being done at best a gross undermining of God and His Word to think that what we have to say is more important and that we ourselves can “do better”??
We can also look at the stark contrast between true Biblical preaching and topical/sermon series’ preaching in this way; is the focus on God or upon self?? If the focus on God, then we must be willing and teachable in that we hunger for all of what the Bible has to say and what it truly means to be a follower of Him. If the focus is on self, then I will seek out those that merely seek to inspire me and tell me how to have a better life. I will seek out those that tend to only talk about God’s love and forgiveness, but rarely if ever talk about how I must repent of my sin and adjust my life to be in obedience to Christ. I will also seek out those that give me tips on issues that I face like how to parent my kids, handle my finances, and what real “agape” love looks like in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, God does care about the struggles and the issues we face in this life. Scripture does address those things at times. But why must we compromise in order to only focus on the things and issues that people want to hear and ditch the rest?? That gives no clear place or authority of Scripture in our individual lives; rather a picked apart made up version of Christianity which is truly not Christianity at all, but a pure form of self idolatry. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 where it says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Isn’t that much of what we are seeing today?? In this age of seeker sensitive/attractional movement running rampant through the Church today, many have given in to compromise that in order to have an growing audience and seemingly impact the world, we must replace the Word of God preached with anything that will grab people’s attention and get them involved with impacting the real social issues of our day. It is no wonder that so-called Christians today can’t even agree how to define the Gospel or sin for that matter. The Bible is being replaced and is in danger of extinction in the Church if we don’t give it the proper place in our lives. When people care more about how it makes them “feel”, what “spiritual experience” they have, or how they have “taken part in helping the social issues of our day”, we are quickly turning to the myths that Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy.
There is much more to say about the clear differences between true Biblical preaching and topical/sermon series’ preaching, but I challenge all of us to reflect on what we have been or are currently pursuing. Are we earnestly seeking after the Truth of God and His Word while surrounding ourselves with pastors and churches which are proclaiming the Truth within the real context of Scripture?? Or are we finding a worldly comfort which we are seeking out pastors and churches that spend more time talking about their own thoughts, ideas, opinions, illustrations, and object lessons that make me feel good and captivate my senses than on God’s Word??
If the you are in the fewer and fewer churches wrestling through all of Scripture and seeking to know and worship God in spirit and truth while departing from sin and living a lifestyle of repentance toward God, be encouraged and remain strong. Know that even as many are compromising to gain approval of the world, God is still on the throne and takes notice of your pursuit of Him in Truth. Continue to persevere despite what others may be proclaiming at Christianity today. Remain faithful to God and His Word.
If you are in one of the many churches continuing to gain approval of men by believing the best way to reach people is to try and one-up God through crafty sermons and by embracing that the gospel is to “live as Jesus did” through secular humanitarian work, don’t buy the lies. Acknowledge that you have fallen into the seductive charm of what many churches have become and are becoming. Repent and turn toward the Lord and surround yourself other true believers that give God and His Word full place in their lives, seeking not their own desires and agendas, but God and His will found in the Bible alone.