In part one of this series, A Vision for Preaching in Post Christian Contexts, we began with a simply, but essential claim, preaching should be biblical. In any time and place we most keep our preaching vision connected to the Scriptures. If we do not begin with the Bible then everything else will go off the rails as we seek to communicate truth to our context. The prophets, apostles and Jesus Christ must be the content of our preaching as we seek to connect and communicate the gospel to people in culture. With this said, we have further work to do in order to be faithful preachers in our day.
Preaching Should be Contextual
If the key task of the preacher is to keep the content of his preaching biblical, his secondary concern is to preach and teach this content to people who exist in space, time, geography and culture. No church or people exist in the middle of nowhere; we all exist somewhere. All people, and certainly churches, exist in some spatio-temporal-cultural-eschatological reality. 1 In other words, we are preaching to people in a particular life context. We are to preach the Bible to people who gather together in a certain place, who live in a certain time, who have a history, who have current loves, worship and temptations. Furthermore, we preach the transcendent gospel to see an in-breaking Kingdom to THESE people right THERE. As such, we must speak in a language and idiom that is intelligible to the people of the day and location in order to connect and communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. If there is no connection, there will be no communication. Many people have used various metaphors for connecting text and context. Building bridges, landing planes, standing between two worlds and translation2 have all be useful. In my ministry, it is my goal to be faithful to the Scriptures while living and preaching these words among a particular people. This means a preacher must also be a missionary seeking to connect to the world in which he lives. He should seek to instruct the Christian while connecting with and inviting in the non-Christian hearer to Christ and Kingdom.3
In practical terms this means I will seek to speak about the Word and their World drawing from the literature, films, art forms of contemporary culture. I will not start with the Bible and then jump out of the text into the world for a nice pep talk. Nor will I simply teach the content of Scripture without seeking to connect with people where they live, work and play. I like to think of a sinusoidal wave that sows together text and context. Going into their world from the Bible and then back into the Bible from appropriate connection points in their world.
In having multiple entry points and exit points it is my hope to connect with various people who are hearing the preaching of the Word. The goal is always working to take people on a journey with and to Jesus to raise their affections for, worship of and obedience to Him. This will be our third aspect of preaching. It should engage the affections for Jesus.
- See my discussion in Gregg R. Allison, Sojourners and Strangers : The Doctrine of the Church, Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012), 149.
- Kuruvilla cites Karth Barth who noted this as the translation of theology into the language of the newspaper. Kuruvilla, A Vision for Preaching : Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Ministry, 118.
- It should be noted that there was an expectation in the early church that non-believers would be present in church gatherings. Many times, this passage is overlooked because of debates on prophecy and tongues etc. but 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 makes it clear that unbelievers entering a worship gathering should not be an unexpected reality.