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Pretend you went to your 5th grade US history class and learned a lot about our country. Next year you’re in sixth grade, but you retake your 5th-grade history class. You do the same in the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades.
Every year, you repeat the same class, but more than that; you repeat all of your 5th-grade classes. The people would cry out, and the academic world would crumble. Right?
I’m aware that you can shoot holes in my “pretend game,” but before you do that, will you take the time to reflect how many Sunday morning church meetings–the sermons, specifically–are similar to what I have described.
Well, not exactly. But close. Let’s look at some of the variables.
Everybody who shows up for a Sunday sermon is not in the “5th-grade.” The congregants span the entire academic spectrum, from no school at all (unregenerate) to post-graduate fellows (mature in God’s Word.)
Perhaps you could turn the illustration around and say that you have uneducated to post-graduate fellows sitting in that 5th-grade class, receiving instruction. What do you think about that?
Most Sunday sermons are a “one size fits all” speech. The typical pastor takes a book from the Bible and starts working through it chapter by chapter, line upon line. And they sprinkle a few topical messages along the way.
Of course, most evangelicals like the exposition of God’s Word. In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with this type of Sunday gathering and preaching. The question that is worth pondering is whether or not it’s the most effective way to equip Christians.
I’m not asking if expositional-type preaching the best way to add to our knowledge, but is it the best way to equip the largest gathering of saints at any point on the church’s calendar–Sunday morning.
Gaining Bible information is only part of the equation for equipping the saints. Knowledge + Application = Wisdom
Before you send “that email,” please read this: I love to study the Bible expositionally. I enjoy reading commentaries, as they work through the Bible, verse by verse. I’m a fan of exploring it with others, or what we typically call a Bible study. So don’t read this as a person who is attempting to throw out a valuable form of communicating God’s Word in private or public settings.
But is it redundant or the best use of such a valuable time for maturing in Christ? Jumping into a Bible study is easier than ever, whether you do it with your church friends or online, there has never been a time in history where studying the Bible is easier.
Should Sunday morning be another Bible study? I have seen a few liabilities to always doing expositional preaching on Sunday mornings.
In my old fundamentalist days, we just “turned it up” by preaching louder. As we used to say, “Just preach the hell out of them” as though the decibel level was vital when it came to life-change. Many still believe in their version of this idea, but it sounds better when you talk about exposition preaching.
You could go on and on with these questions, and my goal is not to be an irritant but to draw attention to something that does not work well for a lot of churches.
Sunday morning is the one time during the week where every demographic from every age group (typically the teenagers and up) gather. The amount of knowledge that each person possesses is as varied as the demographic. It would be wise to take that moment to equip the saints academically (knowledge) and practically (connecting it to the world in which they all live).
The preaching of the Word is irreplaceable, but it’s not a magic bullet that will change lives, families, communities, and cultures if we don’t know how to “work it into warp and woof” of our souls practically.
The real test would be to have this conversation with husbands, wives, and children, asking them how the preaching of God’s Word is transforming their lives.
If you can’t talk about these things within your marriage, family, or church, you may have a problem.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16