It is clear that there are 3 predominant Christianities in place in Canada & America.
- Prophetic Christianity – critiquing the empire
- Therapeutic Christianity – chaplains to the empire
- Messianic Christianity – escaping everything (including the empire) through utopian visions
Nowhere are these three more evident than in the realm of preaching.
I found this flowchart a couple of weeks ago. It is just a simple illustration but it reminded me of so many sermons that I have heard. I love a good sermon. I love listening to good preaching and I love trying to deliver a good sermon.
But I have been haunted by this funny flowchart since I first saw it.
The reason that it got to me is that so many sermons I have heard follow this exact formula. It is like they are using this exact progression for sermon prep.
…which wouldn’t be terrible – IF the point of the gospel was to make people happy.
If the point of the gospel was to make people happy then this progression would be the best and most helpful thing that has ever been invented.
But, and this is a big butt, if the point of the gospel is anything other than making people happy, then this kind of formulaic thinking is the most distracting thing in the world.
In fact, I am almost willing to go out on a limb and say that the point of the gospel is something other than to make people happy and therefore… this is not the way that we should be constructing sermons. I’m not the only on who thinks so. One of my favorite books has a section about Postmodern Christology that says:
Of course, the goals and ethos of spirituality in this culture are very different from those of the early church or even the modern church. The postmodern notion of religion is characterized by consumerism:
“the individual in the role of consumer is encouraged to pick and choose from a vast inventory of religious symbols and doctrines, to select those beliefs that best express his or her private sentiments.” 2
Such spirituality is individualistic; it does not require a form of communal direction or oversight but may be enjoyed in the privacy of one’s own life. This kind of spirituality is effectively delivered within the marketplace of desire. The church of the third millennium finds itself in the midst of a culture that has become
“nothing but a meeting place for individual wills, each with its own set of attitudes and preferences and who understand that world solely as an arena for the achievement of their own satisfaction, who interpret reality as a series of opportunities for their enjoyment and for whom the last enemy is boredom.” 3
I am haunted by this reality. If we think that consumerism is the problem and we think that christianity is the solution then we are in competition with other options. What is clear is that we are no longer the big kid in the sandbox. Christianity no longer has a monopoly as it did during Christendom when so many of our doctrines and expectations were solidified.
I have utilized a lot of whit, sass, and spunk in this post but now I just want to say it:
The point of christian preaching is not to help people be happy. In a consumer culture we are called to empower the believer, comfort the downtrodden, challenge the status quo and proclaim a preferable future. It is also within the scope to proclaim freedom to the captive, remind the righteous of their roots, impart gifts to those in need, and call the wayward to repentance.
The one thing that I am sure of is that the goal of christian preaching is not to make consumers happy. If that is the case, we need to utilize a different flowchart than the world provides when preparing to preach.
if anyone doesn’t want to talk about preaching but would rather chat about environmentalism and postcolonial stuff – I have this other article as well.