Friday, August 16, 2013

Beyond three points (3)

When I first posted blogs on the forthcoming Perth conference, the deadline seemed way off. (That's the story of life, isn't it?) Now the conference launches in less than ten days, with travel to Singapore and preaching in Perth churches to fit in beforehand. Perhaps, kind readers need to know that having raised issues of three points, cross-roads and signposts etc., I think I now have something to say (and if it works out this should be published eventually).

I have taken 'three points preaching' as a metaphor for the kind of preaching which has so packaged God's word into three points that sermons have become safe - devotional packets that are orderly and satisfying. 

You don't have to be a three-point preacher in order to opt for utterly safe devotional packaging of God's truth. Please don't think I am denigrating the hard work of preparation of many three-point preachers (good three-pointers are very hard work), or casting slights on their commitment to Christ's ministry (how wrong that would be). But I do sense in my own preaching ministry that it is very easy to be in control.  Indeed, some observers consider the particular challenge of modernity is the human desire and ability to be in total control of planning and outcomes (as witnessed in much church thinking and planning).  By majoring on informing and persuading we can offer sermons that assume much of the task is our application of reason and technique. Organizing three points might tempt us to think that we can organize God's word and outcomes.

In contrast I am going to plead for preaching that is less safe. This means thinking through implications of the missional church with its emphasis on participating with God in his mission which stretches far beyond the church in his kingdom.  Being open to God's triune empowering and to living in his big story makes preaching a very different exercise. Far from being safe, preaching is actually unsafe because God calls for preachers to be utterly open to his word and his will.

So the signpost's two directions are about two forms of control. In one direction we are in control - church life and our preaching with it. It's safe. In the other direction God is in control and it is wildly unsafe.  What a contrast!  Eventually, I may comment some more once the conference is over.  Thanks for journeying with me.

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