Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Priorities in Preaching

Mark Driscoll's Six Framing Questions for Preaching:
1. What does Scripture say? - The Biblical Question
2. What does the Scripture Mean? - The Theological Question
3. What is my Hook? - The Memorable Question
4. Why do people resist this truth? - The Apologetic Question
5. Why does this matter? - The Missional Question
6. How is Jesus the Hero/Savior? - The Christological Question

And Blue Fish Project on God-Centered Preaching:
Man-centred preaching will either become self-esteemism that tells us what we want to hear, or it'll be sin-focussed which will unwittingly end up convincing us that our sin isn't quite so bad as it actually is. By contrast God-centred preaching that cries 'Behold your God' and feeds on the grace of Christ will be reviled by sin but delighted with the gospel of Jesus. It'll drive changed living out of clear conviction about who God is and our new life in him.

(HT: Transforming Sermons)


dle said...

I really like Driscoll's six questions. I wish more people preached this way.

However, even counting the missional question, too many of these questions reside in the realm of the "theoretical." In other words, they are nice questions to ponder, but how do any of them make me more like Christ?

What he needs is Question #7, The Praxis Question:

So what are the next steps toward daily living out this truth in your life and mine?

Jesus typically put people in a position of having to deal with that question. And most of the time, He answered it for them so there could be no doubt about what that truth meant on a practical basis.

Jesus' confrontation with the rich, young ruler is a perfect example. The high-level teaching starts off with a question about the commandments and turns into Jesus telling the man to sell all he has and give it away. That latter part is missing in too many sermons today, especially those that shy away from the "three points and a conclusion" model.

One of the most glaring omissions I see in preaching today is that too much of it is to the head. This is especially true the more Gospel-centric the message is. Too many preachers are expounding awesome theory. But where is the takeaway?

People in the seats need to be told what to do next. They do. A few will reason it out for themselves. But only a few. To most, if they are not given an explicit charge or practical working out of the message, they will go away and immediately forget what they just heard, the six points signal lost in the world's noise.

Gotta have that seventh. Gotta.

Jared said...

Dan, I think the missional question addresses that mostly.

The practical implications may be unclear in the outline of the theory, but anyone who listens to Driscoll's preaching regularly knows his messages are littered and layered with application. So it's not outside his interest. He actually does application a lot. More so than, say, Keller or Piper do.

It is completely unsurprising to hear you say the "problem" with Gospel-centered preaching is that it doesn't give us enough homework. :-)

The Church has been inundated with application and practical tips. I'd guesstimate 90% of teaching in evangelical churches is "stuff to do." I don't think people are missing out on that, and I don't think they're ignorant of knowing what they can and should do.

On the other hand, we are starving for the gospel, for the finished work of Christ to be held up as gospel for us (not merely as moral example), for the glory of God to be paramount.

And I have found that while our flesh yearns for stuff to do, our hearts will produce fruitful deeds Spiritually when we are exalting Christ and clinging to his redemption of us.

dle said...


I've listened to one Driscoll teaching on hospitality, but it didn't stick with me. Maybe I'm just dense. ;-)

The problem with the missional question is that even if it says, "We need to get out into the streets and preach the Gospel on street corners," there's still a disconnect. Just how do we do that?

And that's where a lot of people stumble and fall down. Then when the initiative goes forward, no one's bought into it. It's still too high level for people to grasp.

As to the "homework" thing, Jesus assigned homework. Homework makes stuff stick. Jesus sent out the 72 and suddenly some of what the Lord had been talking about made sense to His followers. Again, Jesus confronted people and said, "This is the next step on the road to salvation."

You are absolute correct that the Church has been inundated by preachers telling us what the practical take-away is. However, too many of those preachers aren't preaching the Gospel. They are teaching pop psychology and self-help crapola. Meanwhile, the guys who ARE preaching the Gospel are doing so on such a theoretical level that the people listening are warmed by the words, but then have little take-away. They don't ever hear what the next step might be.

Both sides could learn a lot from each other.

As to your closing paragraph, you're still using action/doing verbs (produce, exalt, cling) to describe a spiritual condition. What do those words mean to people on a practical basis? They want to know how one produces, how one exalts, and how one clings. And more than that, they need someone to show them how to do those things. Otherwise, that info sticks in one's head, but never changes lives.

Jared said...

Dan, I think you're using generalities too. What does "out in the streets" mean?

Full disclosure: One of the constant frustrations I have had with your blogging is that you seem preoccupied with systemic problems but come up short on solutions. I tired of the lament and blame (western culture, industrialization) and call for solutions without any apparent offerings from yourself.

you're still using action/doing verbs (produce, exalt, cling) to describe a spiritual condition

Those are spiritual verbs. It's about worship.

They want to know how one produces, how one exalts, and how one clings.

Well, I can tell you what how I do it in my teaching, which is how Driscoll does it in his teaching, and that is to impress upon others the need to forgive as they've been forgiven, care for the poor and needy, listen to and comfort the hurting, etc.

At the same time I know that years of focus on "God wants you to ______" teaching has produced some pretty crappy results and that this stuff you're saying is too theoretical is, at least in my community context, setting people free from the bondage of legalism, connecting them with other believers in grace-driven relationships, growing them spiritually to love Jesus more, and inspiring them to care for the underprivileged in our inner city.

So, practically speaking, the lofty, "impractical" preaching is working.

dle said...


I'm taken aback that you feel I don't provide solutions on my blog. On the issue of countering the effects of industrialization, I've discussed practical solutions such as switching to agrarian lifestyles, sharing property, developing alternative living arrangements, encouraging alternative educational outlets, helping young people marry sooner, bringing both parents' work back to the home, and on and on. That I don't keep rehashing those in every post on the subject of the evils of industrialization is one thing, but the solutions have definitely been offered in the course of my blogging. And that's just one topic.

You are right in saying that systemic issues are difficult. This is why most Christians avoid them, even our best teachers. It is much less taxing to apply a band-aid than it is fix a compound fracture. That's one reason why I like what Driscoll is attempting in Seattle. He recognizes the compound fracture and is trying to fix it. He gets to the root of problems, even the most hidden, systemic ones. And he does delve into practical fixes. More people should preach like he does. As we both know, he doesn't shy away from tough issues that have stubborn roots. I wish more preachers did.

But people would rather fix the symptoms of the rot caused by something like industrialization than to get to the wicked root. Getting to the root of systemic issues requires massive upheaval. Try digging up a dandelion sometime. It'll keep coming back unless you get the whole root out.

When I hear preachers who offer high-level, theoretical preaching, they may tell me everything there is to know about dandelions except how to get rid of them. They may talk about killing the dandelions, but they never tell me the tool to use or where to find it. They don't say what it's going to take to get that dandelion out.

And that's too bad because it makes us ineffective at getting to the root. And the root is where the problem lies.

When I talk about industrialization, for instance, that's a root that most people in the American Church won't even acknowledge exists. They'll talk about latch-key kids and overworked moms, but they never trace that back to the root. They don't acknowledge it, and even sometimes propose things that support that evil root. Or they tell people they have to address this symptom or that, but never offer to help them, never draw alongside them. That's wrong, too.

I think the Church is too high-level and too lacking in the practical. It's not countercultural. It doesn't explore the deeper issues. It doesn't do a good job speaking to the daily existence of modern men. It tends to add more and more knowledge and fails to equip people with what they need to make use of that knowledge. I mean, I know plenty of youth group kids who can explain the whole Romans Road, but they are still operating out of modern worldviews that are antichrist. And the reason is that their teachers have failed to make all the teaching applicable. There's a total disconnect there.

I'm tired of that disconnect. That's why I blog about these topics.

Like I said in my previous comment, the Gospel-centered guys could do a better job with helping people make practical use of what they teach, especially as it pertains to systemic issues, while the application guys out there could do a much, much better job actually feeding their flock the Gospel.

The truth is often found in the middle ground. On this topic, it most definitely is!