Monday, January 28, 2013

Preaching to Unbelief

I was surfing the web recently and came across a courageous soul who asked this question: How do I start preaching to unbelievers?

That’s a great question for church planters. We’re supposed to be connecting with unbelievers. It’s also a great question for anyone who presents Christian faith in the pulpit (and who wishes to be relevant to our post-Christian culture).

Here are a few of the answers that were given:
·       Who put you in charge of preaching to unbelievers so that they can believe the same things that you do?
·       You can't force people to believe what you want them to believe. We each have our own journey to make to God.
·       You don't. My Christian friends don't try and I respect the hell out of them for it. And if they started, I'd laugh at them.
·       You must be using the term "friend" very loosely if they mean no more than potential recruits to you.

And here was the answer chosen by voters as the best:
·       Learn to accept those who do not think as you do and leave them alone. Love them for who they are instead of who you want them to be.

Each of these answers reflects what Tim Keller refers to as the implausibility structure of American culture towards Christianity. Ideas such as pluralism, individual freedom, tolerance, and the relativity of truth form a matrix that works against belief in a God who defines reality and the exclusive, specific claims of Jesus to be Lord of every person. Against this implausibility matrix belief in the Christian God and Jesus as Lord simply does not make sense. Christianity becomes a dead option.

In traditional preaching, based on a modernist, Christendom perspective. We assumed that we and our hearers shared the same truth construct. What we needed to establish was a shared means for knowing that truth, whether by scientific enquiry or receiving divine communication.

In our post-modern, post-Christian context where the very idea of absolute, meta-truth is rejected we cannot assume a shared truth construct. Now the only substantive means to establish connection is by working on the same questions.

For those of us who have had courses on preaching we are no longer able to begin with propositions, statements of truth, which we explain, illustrate, and apply for our hearers. Now we must dig deeper, into the questions of unbelief that we will explore together, considering options, one of which we believe is God. If we don't, we indeed become square pegs desperately seeking to connect into round holes.

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