Dec. 4, 2020

Enough Vanilla - The Case For Hard Preaching

Enough Vanilla - The Case For Hard Preaching

I've spent a good portion of my adult life teaching and preaching the Bible in a variety of settings. Podcasts, webinars, small groups, one on one, and of course in traditional weekly services. 

I'm very fortunate. I was trained by some of the best in the business at delivering dynamic messages. Dynamic is an important word to understand. Inherit in the definition are two key themes; progress and activity. In other words, if teaching is dynamic it shouldn't sound, look, and be the same all the time.

The lacking dynamics in preaching and teaching create messages that can be best described as vanilla. Otherwise important doctrinal concepts and heart touching messages can be glossed over simply because they are far too vanilla to get the attention of the hearers. 

Of course, some would make the case that sometimes God uses a "still small voice" to communicate with his people. 

This of course is true, but scripturally this is generally done on a one-on-one basis. A still small voice is not modeled as a preaching and teaching delivery method. 

This also implies that non-vanilla preaching and teaching, "hard preaching", is all about volume. It's not.

Hard preaching at its core is about trimming off the filler and fluff to get straight to the central scriptural theme in a way that gets attention. It's preaching and teaching built with the intent to inspire change, encourage growth, repentance, and examination. Examination of the scripture, ourselves, our behaviors, with the goal to be more like Jesus. It is at times intentionally abrasive and combative to shock listeners out of the trance of distraction and to lock their attention into what is being said. 

The Danger Of Cultural Conformity

The challenge for all of us who belong to a church is this... we also belong to church culture. It's the color of the denominational jerseys we all wear. For anyone who is sharing content of any kind that is designed to ultimately lead people to Jesus, we have to use our voice in alignment with our church culture, but not a voice that is simply complying with cultural norms just so we don't make waves. 

Because let's face it, every Christian community has its ism's many of which are fine and well but are far from scripturally decreed laws. They instead are preferences, scruples, and traditions. And to be fair, just like in any family or group, some traditions are wonderful and should be embraced for their uniqueness and the connectivity they provide. 

But the practice and acceptance of some cultural norms can lead to stagnation, apathy, and even hostility amongst the participants. This shows up often in preaching and teaching. When it all sounds and looks the same, the messages become a hum of white noise, and subsequently, the spiritual power gets sucked out of both the person giving the message and hearer. This is something we all must guard against. 

72 Episodes Later

72 episodes later of the Narrow Gate Podcast and I've learned more than a few things. I think we've done a decent job of maintaining dynamics in the content. But I also know I've been way too careful with holding back harder preaching episodes because, like many, I was worried about cultural conformity. That was a mistake. 

The mission of this podcast is to deliberately disrupt the white noise of vanilla teaching so prevalent in the spaces in which the show travels in. 

The irony is the audience has been telling me this... for months. When some episodes were a little hotter in delivery, many soaked it up like a dry sponge and asked for more. To the many that continued to ask for these messages to be included in the mix, I'm sorry for the delay. That's completely on me.

Content Mix

The best preaching and teaching is dynamic and that concept of mixing the content load to keep the audience on their toes is still alive and well on the podcast. The only difference is some harder elements will be more readily included in the overall content package to help all of us to grow, change, and be more like Jesus in an increasingly wicked world.

So the same feed that has a message like "Good Morning Jesus" also has the "Fight For The Faith" episode. Very different in delivery but both pointing to the same Jesus. 

That's who we are here at Narrow Gate. It just took us 72 episodes to figure that out. 

Looking forward to sharing the next 72 with you.