While reading Second Timothy as Paul instructs Timothy from prison to be a staunch and steadfast promoter of the gospel and to “correctly handle the word of truth”, it struck me that many of the examples of preaching that I encounter stand in stark contrast to that injunction. Pop psychology, platitudes, personal views and alternate readings, replace what should be at the heart of preaching – God’s infallible Word.
Even worse, some preachers encourage their hearers to find “their own truth” in the text. This is a very postmodernist approach where we all have our own “truths”. All we need to do is discover it. God’s truth, is secondary to our “truth”.
I found an alternative view in a church in Porvoo, Finland, a number of years ago. As the preacher approached the pulpit, above the door to the pulpit the cleric would have read: 1 Cor 1:21 “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” And as the preacher left, on the other side, 1 Cor 4:20 “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” For me, it highlights the fact of God’s truth is proclaimed through the foolish mouths of humans. However, this Word, as it comes from God, is empowered to change lives and destinies. It doesn’t give us an excuse to replace God’s Word with some fantasy of our own.
Our foolishness, however, does not give us liberty to stray from God’s word. This must always be at the heart of all preaching.