Sammy Maina writes for Conversation Magazine:
It’s a Sunday morning and my good friend Mais is not looking forward to church. Well, to some this may sound awkward, to some shocking and to others it’s not a big deal. In fact to some it doesn’t matter whether one goes to church or not.
As a disciple of Christ however, Mais needs to go to church, and not just go but belong to one and be an active member. He says he is not keen on going to church today because most Sundays he leaves the church feeling disappointed. Mais narrates to me what has been bothering him:
“Sam, two Sundays ago I visited a church where the preacher stated that people suffer because they have sinned. And in a different instance the man of God preached that Christians should not suffer. I have read the book of Job and what happened to him was not as a result of sinning.”
“I am not saying that some suffering is not as a result of one’s wrong doing,” Mais added, “but I doubt his preaching was biblical. Another time,” Mais continued, “I attended a service in my home church. The preacher of the day (an invited guest preacher) took me on a guilt trip that was unnecessary (is there ever a necessary guilt trip anyway?). The sermon was about being blessed. ‘This must be good stuff,’ I thought. After all who wouldn’t want to be blessed? I listened keenly to the preacher as he went on and talked about material blessing. He said that in order to be blessed people needed to give more. ..’It is because you don’t give much that you have so little.’ The service ended with a song inviting people to give and a quick invitation to prayer for those who wanted to receive Christ.”
What is true blessing?
My friend asked me, “Is that all being blessed is about? Money and more money, big houses, big cars, designer clothes and so on? Why didn’t the preacher carefully explain the gospel before calling people for prayer? After all who will come for prayer if they don’t understand why they need salvation? They have got to see the need for them to respond to the call to follow Christ. And by the way, what does material blessing have to do with following Christ? To make matters worse, a few months ago this same preacher gave a sermon that made people feel really good about themselves. It was very me-centered, pumping people up such that those not in Christ went home not seeing the need for salvation. They went home believing that they were right with God. On the
other hand those who knew that we are poor and wretched sinners in need of God’s grace went home rejoicing that salvation is by grace through faith but they also went home sad that the preacher was not truthful in his sermon.”
If you read the Bible and are passionate about faithful handling of scriptures, you will understand why my friend Mais was not looking forward to going to church. Mais knows that there is nothing wrong with having material things. Actually he has been praying for a bigger house and for many other things. But since he doesn’t have them yet, does this mean he is not blessed? Doesn’t the Bible speak of both spiritual blessings and material blessing and actually say that the spiritual blessings are far more important? Isn’t a relationship with Christ of more value than anything else?
Mais continues, “When my mother got sick to a point of almost dying, was it because she had sinned? Today she is chronically ill. Is it because she has sinned? My mother goes to church, she is a follower of Christ, and she tithes and gives generously to the church. What are you telling me Mr. Preacher?”
Mais is not alone in this. I identify and empathize with him and with many others who may be in such a situation. I for one, am tired of listening to preaching that is either biblical but not contemporary or contemporary but not biblical. Authentic Christian preaching must be both biblical and contemporary. Biblical because it is an exposition of the Word of God (not our word, not our view, not our philosophy). On the other hand true Christian preaching is contemporary. To use the words of another,
“Christian preaching must resonate with the modern world; it wrestles with the realities of our hearers’ situation… we must refuse to lapse into irrelevance. Instead we should seek to relate the ancient text to the modern context. True biblical exposition goes beyond exegesis, which simply explains the meaning of the passage, to application – grasping the heart of the message.” (Greg Haslam, Preach the Word, p43-44)
[For the rest of this article, where Sammy turns to look at what we really need – a preaching driven church, get your copy of Conversation Magazine Issue 2]