I once heard one of my favorite preachers, Louie Giglio say, “preaching is a craft.” What he meant was we should not all sound like whoever is famous at the time. I think it was Rick Warren back then, now it would be Matt Chandler. Anyways, it’s a good point that young preachers should spend time finding their voice not copying their preaching hero. By voice I mean, your passion, your style, your unique way of communicating God’s Word. Communication is a powerful tool and the more time pastors dedicate to growing in their own unique form of communication the better off the church will be.
That being said, I would like to make a case for a new approach to preaching. Apologetic preaching. I love preaching. I love to listen to preachers, all kinds of preachers, old school Baptists, less traditional communicators and theologically rich communicators. However, what I don’t hear enough of is, apologetic preaching. I hear a lot of guys assuming their audience’s faith is secure and leveraging their assumption to communicate sermons that inspire but don’t explain or defend God’s Word.
Maybe there was an era when preachers could get away with this, but I believe now is the time for preachers to include an apologetic aspect to all their preaching.
Barna research recently discovered that the most common type of “spiritual shift” in America is coming from those who were at one time Christians. Now to be fair, there are more Christians in America. So it is logical to conclude that it is easier to find Christian shifters than say Muslim shifters, but if you were to go to Iran, you would find more Muslim shifters than Christian shifters, due to the greater number of Muslim believers.
Back to American Christian shifting…It didn’t matter if they were Protestant or Catholic in childhood, about one out of every eight adults (12%), are being described by Barna as “ex-Christians.” (Note: New converts to Christianity in America represent 3% of the population.)
WHY PEOPLE SHIFT
According to Barna research the most common reasons for moving away from Christianity included:
- life experiences, such as gaining new knowledge or education;
- feeling disillusioned with church and religion;
- feeling the church is hypocritical;
- negative experiences in churches;
- disagreeing with Christianity about issues such as homosexuality, abortion or birth control;
- feeling the church is too authoritarian;
- wanting to experience other religions.
When I read these responses I noticed a trend. They all loosely fit into the parable of the sower told by Jesus.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER (Matthew 13:18-23)
Jesus gave a parable one day while preaching to the thousands of people who followed Him. It was about 4 seeds, representing faith, that were cast out and the 3 type of events that can happen to cause people to loose faith. Later he met with His disciples and explained the parable in more detail. Here are the three events that cause people to loose faith, or as Barna would say, “spiritually shift.”
- Lacks Understanding (When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. – Matthew 13:19)
- Lacks Spiritual Grit (endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away – Matthew 13:21)
- Lacks A Deep Love for Jesus (this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. – Matthew 13:22)
These are strikingly similar to the life experiences expressed by those 1:8 Christians who have walked away from their faith: Something bad happened in the church and they lost faith. They disagreed because they didn’t understand the Christian position on cultural issues. Or they thought a different spiritual or earthly “experience” would be more fulfilling instead of Jesus.
The fourth seed in Jesus parable is the good one. It has a lasting faith. And with lasting faith comes a unique trait.
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it…”
Understanding what one believes is essential to shiftless faith. Jesus said it, culture is proving it, now what are you going to do about it? It is not enough to entertain your congregation. It is not enough to inspire your congregation. As preachers we must help our congregation understand the gospel in comparison to culture and competing religions or ideologies.
So I would like to challenge my preaching friends to take an extra few hours this week in their sermon prep and play the devil’s advocate. What point needs to be defended? What is the critic in the back of the room thinking? Are you making a point that relies heavily on the assumption of a Christian culture? If so, build in some time to teach your listeners why they believe what they believe and how to defend it. You will not regret it and your church will be better for it.