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Friday, March 02, 2007

Be Gracious, We're Almost Done...

Ok, you're sick of the series. In many ways, so am I. I'm not writing this because I take pleasure in critiquing the message (I"ve said that before.) However, I am only one article away from sharing my real passion; the power from preaching the Word of God!

This series has not been an exegesis of a text, nor the evaluation of someone else's exegesis (since the preacher gave me nothing to exegete but a song). Knowing this series has been weak, I hope that is because my strength lies in exegesis (a boy can hope, right?). I've already written what bothered me about the sermon, why it bothered me, and even a side issue about hymns.

Why would a preacher not use the Word of God? Do I believe Dr. Jeremiah denies it is sufficient? Hardly. As far as I can see, there is only one reason to choose a different source...he believed it would reach his audience better. To reach this young audience (it was during the college's chapel period), Dr. Jeremiah employed the following tactics:

Powerpoint Visuals
As he told a moving story, a couple pictures displayed in the background of the character he was referencing. He did not point out the pictures, making it awkward and interupting his story. Instead, he simply continued his narrative, allowing the visuals to help those who like to see things and not just hear.

Video Clips
Also during his message, he twice directed the audience's attention to the screen. He played a beautiful rendition by a woman in the 60's (?, sorry, I don't remember her name. Clothing and video quality made me think it was before my time.). Later, he directed our attention to watch a scene from Les Miserables, to assist him in making his point.

Celebs
Dr. Jeremiah also took a portion of time to rattle off the perspectives on Amazing Grace from a list of famous people. He was able to reherse persepctives from scientists, to musicians, politicians, to actors. He listed off all of the optional views to the lyrics.

[As a side point, this was the most disturbing point of the message to me. Nearly every quote he read presented grace in some form of a godless perspective. Some of the quotes were confusing, people striving to be so deep their statement lacked any clarity. However, some were very clear and quite rebellious toward God. At the end of all the quotes, Dr. Jeremiah stated (again, loosely quoting) "I assume God must be laughing, because I am at these responses." I found myself thinking, "He's probably angry and broken hearted, but laughing? I doubt it." It seemed an odd moment in the midst of his message.}

Current
Of course, this message came just as the movie Amazing Grace came out. Of course, the movie is about Wilberforce, not really Newton, but still, it is hard to be more current than a nationwide movie coming out.

And the outcome?

Videos, visuals, celebrity quotes all working around a theme that matches a major motion picture...is there any more that a speaker can do to reach his college-aged audience? I would argue yes.

You see, not only do I believe the preacher has a duty to build his message form the Word of God (which I acknowledge, I haven't done a great job Biblically justifying...perhaps that's a series for later), I also believe it is ineffectual to do otherwise. Dr. Jeremiah did all the things that should have had the audience eating out of his hand. However, they weren't. In fact, as a man stood at the podium and welcomed the pastors who had invaded the campus, he announced that Dr. Jeremiah was going to be preaching (crickets) and that Voddie Baucham would be sharing afterwards (breakout of applause). As I hope to show tomorrow, Voddie's message had zero visuals, no famous quotes and not a single movie reference.

Scripture tells us that the Word of God is powerful and effective. It has great ability to bind our consciences and is a gracious means of sanctification God uses in our lives. However, nowhere does Scripture tells us that culture is also a powerful and effective tool. We do not read from the Book that entertainment, philosophy or sporting activities have the ability to conform us to the image of Christ.

The preacher certainly has at his disposal the ability to use any of these devices to articulate Biblical truth (and I don't care about the order. The illustration can come first, or the Biblical foundation). But any illustration used must be used to illustrate the point made from Scripture.

If a preacher does not use the Word of God, he should not be surprised when he does not see godly results. Afterall, the listener is simply choosing to not follow the advice of a man, a movie or a magazine...something we should be instructing our Body not to go to for godliness anyway. If we want them going to the Book, why wouldn't we go there when we preach?

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