Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shaking the Sleeping Soul

I’d like to follow up on yesterday’s post concerning sermon styles.

I find it interesting that all the preachers Jeff named yesterday have something in common, in spite of their different styles. For they are all quite different on the surface: Mark Driscoll is grungy like Seattle and very wide angle, as Jeff said. Tim Keller is also wide angle but his temper, and temperament, are much different; he is more like a psychiatrist whereas Driscoll is more like an armed combatant. I love them both. Meanwhile, Piper is hyper-exegetical and can preach a compelling sermon on a jot or tittle, which is exactly why Jesus insisted they not be removed. (Note: I think Jeff Tell is like John Piper but sneakier. Scandalously, his sermons are not available online. We'll have to stick with comparing the three lesser lights.)

So what do these guys all have in common? Well, they are all conservative and Reformed, and they are all preaching in big liberal cities, and they are all passionate about the gospel. But there’s something about their preaching that I want to point out, something that ties their styles together even though they are different on the surface.

And it’s something that I think is absolutely essential to quality preaching.

It’s this: each of these preachers, horrified at the reality of sleeping souls, pulls the shades wide open so the light streams in, and then grabs the soul by the shoulders and shakes it till it wakes up.

That’s another way of saying this: each of these preachers, in their own way, reveals the beauty of the Scriptures and then persuasively confronts us with its application to our hearts.

Regarding beauty: the two types of sermon styles Jeff mentioned yesterday both help people see the beauty of Scripture, either in its harmony or its intricacy. The fish-eye (wide angle) preachers who “go big” are like those who are impressed with the immensity of the universe. The microscopers who “go small” are like those who see the beauty of the microscopic world—atom, molecules, DNA, and the universe contained there. Bottom line, effective preachers give you a new lens to use so you can appreciate (maybe for the first time) the beauty of the universe that is God’s word.

Regarding application: all the preachers Jeff mentioned yesterday are confrontational. They are not satisfied to say either “don’t miss the big picture” or “hey, don’t miss the nuance here” but instead take those truths and do battle with the heart. Their form of warfare may be more or less outwardly confrontational, but they are all on the same mission: to move people to worship God instead of whatever else they may be prone to worship in Seattle, Minneapolis, or New York. Unless you are dead, you are forced to get out of bed.

Here’s what I’m saying (and not saying as well as any of the guys mentioned above): Whatever the style may be, effective preaching must aim the truths of God’s word at the hearts of the hearers and take a shot. What’s great about both the fish-eye lens and the microscope, “going big” or “going small,” is that both help to rouse the soul who’s all too comfortable with their minimal knowledge of Scripture. The light streams in. Then from there, you have to start shaking…or shooting.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Ha, I enjoyed both of these two posts. I recently have been listening to a lot of Piper. I LOVE his preaching. Matt would rather listen to Driscoll still. I still enjoy listening to him as well, but right now I have to say I'm enjoying Piper more. And I think maybe this has given some insight. It's not really easy to compare the two because they are pretty different...but I totally see the fish eye thing. Yep.