I was reading Pastoral Theology: A Black Church Perspective by James H. Harris. In that book he writes:
Pastors know that much of what the black church does locally and nationally is accommodationist, that is, the minister tends to do what he or she perceives to be the expectation of the laity, rather than develop in the laity a new understanding regarding liberation practices. Not only that, there also seems to be a tendency to accommodate the prevailing social structure rather than taking the risk to force change.
Harris is speaking of the necessity to be prophetic in the pulpit and call into question even prevailing social assumptions that might be against God’s ultimate ideal for humanity. But as I read this, I think the idea can be pushed even further into every pulpit in the land to more than the idea of liberation.
Preaching the Word or Accommodating?
Are we as preachers speaking the Word that the people need or are we accommodating their assumptions? As I noted in another article, even when preachers are “prophetic” or allegedly “courageous” they do it in front of people who are already accepting of their premise. I saw a preacher the other day in a church that has a contemporary-Gospel service. The preacher tried to paint himself as courageous because he attacked the supposed “pharisees” in the congregation who were against more emotive styles of congregational response. To tell people what they want to hear, whether the point is right or wrong, is not courageous. Perhaps there are problems in that church that need to be addressed by the Word. Perhaps there are issues of the Gospel that need to be heard. Perhaps there is need for a reciting of the fundamentals of the Gospel. But something is desperately wrong when a preacher tries to paint himself as courageous while basically carrying water for the status quo.
In the end, the question becomes, are you preaching what people need to hear, or are you preaching what people want to hear? Are you trying to “wreck the house” or are you trying to let the Holy Ghost to clean up the house? Are you trying to get the people celebrating the status quo or are you trying to get the people to see and understand the implications of the Kingdom of God to them? Stand up and be courageous by preaching the Word. Sometimes the Word comforts, sometimes the word challenges, sometimes the word will do something altogether different, but let the Word of truth guide. Certainly we are to celebrate the word that comes, but it is always God and God’s Word that is at the center of our presentations. So preach that word, but if you think you must accommodate to the whims of humanity, at least don’t act like you are being courageous, go ahead and be what you are….a lackey for the Kingdoms of this World.
1 thought on “Do Your Sermons Elevate Your People?”
I would agree with your conclusion and Harris’ observation; even going so far as to suggest that the Black Church has adopted this approach as part of the culture of church. Quite a bit of what happens in most churches has little to do with genuine Bible based ministry to a “sin sick and dying world.” To a large degree, what is said, heard and done is all prepackaged. Even the words that are used, are for the most part scripted long before a text is exegeted and expounded.
Truly, this is not intended to be a blanket statement accusing ‘every’ church of such shortsightedness, but it is far more the norm than what should be comfortable. It skirts the demonic in that, to project to the public that they can find God in a building, while being deceptive in how one might effectuate the same is evil. It seems that we have become trapped by our own story, we seem stuck in a script that no longer fits the scenes of life we live.
To many who populate pulpits reduce the Bible to the script of the people we serve and as a result, lead them into both mediocrity and blindness. The saddest part is that according to Scripture, the preacher who does so will be judged harshly. Throughout the OT, there is much said about prophets who don’t prophecy what the Lord requires. This may sound harsh and may even be overstated, but I believe this to be the case in too many churches.