Pointless preaching?

I spent yesterday studying Titus and preparing a series of 5 bible studies for our Gospel Group to start in June. As I studied I couldn’t but notice Paul’s emphasis that Titus teach sound doctrine and refute the false doctrine so that the Christians were careful to devote themselves to doing good.  He then spends considerable ink showing what that looks like for different groups of people within the church.  I couldn’t help but contrast that with something that is one of my bug bears about so much of the preaching I hear, and often my own.

Instead of applying something from the text we waft around a few implicationsBible – the text says this so we must do this.  That is an implication from the text but not an application of it.  And application gets 5 minutes of a 25 minute sermon, and often tacked on the end.

Look closely at Titus, Paul goes into detail about how each group of people must apply the text to their own situation as older men, younger men, older women, young women, as slaves.  He even explicitly states that part of the application to Titus is the way he lives as an example to the younger men and what that looks like.  Paul’s application is detailed, it is why he writes his letter to see change.  That is the point.

Titus is a letter heavy on application but too often when we preach it is light on application.  Our preaching is pointless – we don’t aim at change.  We need to work harder on ‘exegeting’ our people and their lives, the situations they face, so that we know how to apply the Bible to them and not be afraid to do so.  Not in a legalistic way, but helping people see what godliness looks like.

At Grace a lot of our younger Christians have not grown up in Christian homes, they have come to faith in their teens, twenties, and thirties.  They have not seen godly living from parents.  They have imbibed the ways of the world, it’s limp definitions of the good life not Jesus revolutionary way of living as his follower.  They need application so they know how to live.  They need a passage to end with more than the ‘so let us pray we can live like this’.  And they need it in every area of life the Bible speaks about because Jesus claims lordship of all of their life.

They need to see the radical call of the gospel in detail and, as Paul does in Titus, the power the gospel of grace gives us to live transformed lives as we apply the Bible.

The reason we preach through books of the Bible

I write this on a Sunday afternoon, unusually, I just needed to stop and reflect, to remind myself why we are committed to preaching through books of the bible chapter by chapter.  I am mentally and spiritually spent because of preaching this morning, and I’m pretty sure I’ll spend hours this evening questioning whether I was sensitive enough on this point, or should have phrased that better, or brought more comfort to this group of people.

As a church we are committed to preaching through books of the bible and this Biblemorning was one of those passages where I kind of wish we weren’t.  Genesis 19 is brutal not just distasteful, sickeningly sinful not just mildly disturbing.  It is a passage that if it wasn’t for our commitment to preach through the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter I would love to have avoided.  But I believe all of the Bible is God’s word and it is all profitable.

It was also a chapter that reflects the brokenness and sickness of our world, our humanity and our community.  It is a chapter rife with abuse, godlessness, and failure to love your neighbour or love God.  With half-heartedness and compromise and its consequences displayed in all their gory detail.

As such it has been a hard week in preparation.  It has been a hard morning in preaching.  Aware even as I did so of the painful wounds this passage opens up for so many people.  But also acutely aware of the amazing nature of the message of grace and God’s saving the undeserving and our need, my need, to hear this message again in the midst of all my, all the churches, and all our societies brokenness.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  And that applies to Genesis 19 as much as to John 3.