Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Substitute Preachers"

I loved having substitute teachers in school. As soon as I walked in the room and the regular teacher wasn't there I knew it was a free day! Whoever the "victim," I mean highly qualified educator was, there was no way they were going to teach anything that day. I almost seem to remember an entire week where the sub. did nothing but show movies (and I'm talking the old 16mm kind for those of you old enough to remember those!)

As qualified as they may have been, they usually opted to do the "keep 'em quiet and entertained" mode of educating. At the end of the day they got paid, and the students were happy because there wasn't any homework! All in all, it was a pretty easy day for everyone concerned. I cannot, however, say that I was taught anything nor did I learn anything. But I went to school, and for that my mom was happy!

Today's blog is all about those preachers who know better, but choose to act like substitute preachers. They have been taught how to teach and preach. They know the tools that would help them understand a passage, communicate it, and make it applicable to today's audience in a meaningful way. But they choose not to do that. Rather, their goal is entertainment and multi-media is the approved method.

Have I seen videos that were appropriate to the topic, moving, and compelling? Absolutely! No more recently than this past Lord's day the church where I was a visiting preacher showed a video of the suffering of Christ on the way to the cross. It made partaking of the Lord's Supper a very real experience having just seen the broken body and shed blood as it was portrayed in that 3 minute video. A video that supports and illustrates the well-prepared message is a very valuable tool.

But to let cute videos, parodies, and stuff that is just plain silly - with no relevance, spiritual value, or illustrative value to a sermon/lesson is the mark of a lazy or stupid preacher/teacher. Entertainment was never the goal of a spokesman of God! I think of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. I think of Paul who was run out of one town after another. Should they have replaced God's message with a monologue fit for Conan, Dave, or Jay? Would they have been noted entertainers of their world? Would they have been invited to speak at the big conventions of their day? Maybe so... But they would not have shared the life-changing message of the eternal God of the universe.

Do we wonder why the average church member is so biblically illiterate? They can watch youtube at home! The entertainment portion of "church" is squeezing out much of the Scripture they desperately need to hear, learn, and apply. Bible Colleges that have squeezed out much of the Biblical/Theological component of a preacher's education may share the blame in this as well (but that's another blog for another time).

We often point the finger at the younger preachers who are substituting amusing multi-media for the Word of God. But what about those seasoned, "been in the pulpit for years," successful preachers? I listen to them on occasion and end up thinking things like this:

They tell me about Barna, but they don't tell me about Bartimaeus, Bartholomew, or Simon Bar Jonah!
They tell me about the latest poll by Zogby, but they probably couldn't find Zechariah or Zephaniah to save their life.
They repeat moving stories told by Lucado, but ignore Luke, the beloved physician.
They glory in the leadership principles told by John Maxwell, but look stunned and bewildered when someone asks them who John Mark was!

Do we get the point people? Great videos or great illustrations are fine - to support a great sermon or lesson! But to replace the word of God with the word of man is a grave mistake. It is also one teachers will answer for one day as well (see James 3:1). We owe it to our congregation to constantly strive to give them meat rather than milk (or the sweetened soda pop junk food that is so often spewed out today).

C'mon, Murphy! Let's go outside.