Sometimes we evangelical preachers congratulate ourselves on our staunch faithfulness to Scripture –
especially as opposed to those
crowd pleasers in other communions who merely tell funny stories
and confirm people’s prejudices.
Martin Luther has some cautionary words for us, however. “Though
we be active in the battle, if we are
not fighting where the battle is the
hottest, we are traitors to the cause.”
So here is a test of the preaching
in your church.
In your community what are the
leading impediments to spiritual
growth? If people in your church are
going to falter or fail in the faith, how
are they most likely to do so? Where
is the local battle at its hottest?
The test is how many sermons
were devoted to each of these crucial concerns over the last few years.
I am waiting to hear, or even hear
about, a Canadian sermon series
that addresses any of these issues.
Minor league sports: Scholars have
long identified hockey as an alternative religion in Canada and they’re
not kidding. Think of how many
Canadian families are in a tug-of-war between hockey and church life.
Compare the time and money
families spend on skiing, tennis,
swimming – you name it – with
what they spend on spiritual growth,
charity to the needy and Christian
education. Then tell me there isn’t
something here to be addressed.
Housing costs: We all know how
daunting housing prices have be-
come in almost all our major cities.
So what are young people, new-
comers and working-class people
to do? How many people are stuck
in super-commutes, wasting hours
and hours every week to get to the
only jobs they can find from the
only homes they can afford?
What should we even wish for?
We Canadians aspire to own a detached house on a private lot.
Should we be downsizing our expectations to free up money for
other Kingdom priorities? How
many sermons have you heard
preached on this, the number one
financial cost in most people’s lives?
(“For where your treasure is….”)
Social media: Are Facebook/Insta-gram/Pinterest/Twitter/etc. good
things for Christians? What are we
trying to accomplish using them?
How much time are we spending
on trivial quizzes instead of reading
a worthwhile book or essay, or
having a conversation with someone we actually live with? How can
we have fruitful relationships online – if we can?
Think of the hours people spend
downloading, typing, reading – and
then recall all the hours of Christian teaching you received on this
subject from the pulpit.
Taxes: Look at your last paystub
and notice how much money isn’t
coming home. Where is it going?
How should a Christian feel about
that? How are we to think about
ways of reducing or avoiding tax?
What about cross-border shopping
aimed at avoiding duty charges?
How does the tax I contribute to
social programs factor in, if it
should, to what I ought to spend in
tithing to my church or contribut-
ing to the welfare of the needy?
How should I feel about govern-
ments sponsoring lotteries and the
like to avoid unpleasant taxing of
the general population? Taxes are a
huge fact of modern life. How
many sermons address them?
That list is just for starters. If our
preaching instead revolves around
“loving Jesus” and “avoiding porn”
and “more boldly talking about our
faith” and “caring more about others
in some vague way that isn’t con-
cretely directed toward really
improving the lot of any actual
people,” then what are we doing?
How is making churchgoers
briefly feel better through “Bible
talk” or “Jesus talk” any better than
making them briefly feel better
through any other kind of talk?
Preachers need time and training
to research the leading problems
their congregants face. They need
to talk them over with congregants
and fellow leaders to understand
the local version of those problems.
They need to study what Bible
scholars, theologians and ethicists
have to say about them. They need
to ponder all of this research in the
light of the Word itself, to pray it
through in the Spirit, and to prepare sermons that will inform, inspire, instruct and guide us.
Are we demanding that our
preachers do so?
Are we equipping them to do so?
Or are we content with another
Sunday morning of “blessed
thoughts” plus groovy music –
which gives us a nice break from
running the kids around to sports,
worrying about the mortgage and
thinking about how to respond to
that troll on Facebook? /FT
“…people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they
will gather around them a great number
of teachers to say what their itching ears
want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4: 3
HOURS PER DAY
ON AVERAGE WI TH
MEDIA ( WATCHING,
BRO WSING, GAMING
IPSOS REID 2014 ONLINE
SURVEY OF 11,300
CANADIANS AGE 18
CHRIST & CULTURE IN CANADA
JOHN G. STACKHOUSE JR.
It isn’t much better than scratching ears
John Stackhouse teaches at Crandall
University in Moncton, N.B. His most recent
book is Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for
Egalitarianism (Intervarsity Press, 2015). Find more of
his columns at www.faithtoday.ca/ChristAndCulture.