Monthly Archives: October 2013

Preach For Transformation

Preaching is a very important element in worship. Yet it is also a time where it is most easily abused. If we are not careful, our pulpit can become a place for entertainment — a place to tell jokes and gain our popularity. It can also be a place to show our charisma and build our power. There are others who use it to say what they want or even use it like a ATM to draw their money from members.

For those who are more serious, they would teach instead of preach at the pulpit.  Preachers can end up sharing a lot of biblical knowledge and even include a lot of Greek and Hebrew. This is not to say that all these are bad, but rather we should use it appropriately. We are not preaching to seminary students but church members at large. Besides the cognitive element, they also need the affective element.

The pulpit must be honoured because God has used it to bring transformation in the church. God forbid it to be abused. How can use the pulpit appropriately to bring transformation in our church? Here are some pointers to share.

1) Centrality and Supremacy of God.
God should be the centre of every sermon. It’s not the church nor the preacher, or any other human. God forbid the pulpit to be abused. It is time where the word of God is declared. Through the word of God, God is exalted and glorified.

2) True to the Text.
The sermon must be true to the text. It must be what the passage wants to say. Some preachers just choose a passage, but they say whatever they want. Even some may preach very well, but they are not true to the text. We need to go back and ask what God wants to say through His word first.

3) Derive Points from Text.
Besides being true to the text, we need to derive our points from the text too. From the different verses, we need to show how points are exegeted. Some points are just too far fetched these days. These points are from the Bible no doubt, but just not derive from that passage. Some might have confused topical preaching for expository preaching for that matter.

4) Surface Wrong Worldviews.
A lot of sermons these days focus on actions. There are steps as to getting something done. While these steps provide good handles, they focus a lot more on behaviour or methodology. As such, we may end up knowing more things we should do without knowing what is wrong with our worldviews. The risk is that we may be doing a lot of Christian thing without transformation from within. Bear in mind that we can only change what we know about ourselves. When we do not know what is wrong with our worldview, there is no way we can change. This is perhaps the greatest crisis of Christian faith today. We have many Christians who are actively serving but living untransformed lives. We think they are alright because they are already serving actively in the church. In our preaching today, we ought to surface some of the wrong worldviews the passage is highlighting so that the audience can reflect about their own thinking and perceptions.

5) Show Biblical Values and Principles.
Rather than showing the steps or methodology, let me suggest that we should in fact derive biblical values and principles from the passage. Instead of telling people what they should be doing to achieve something, it would be better to give people new attitudes they should adopt and the guiding principles that they need to consider when making decisions. In this manner, we help the people to be more mature in their thinking and get them to be responsible for their decisions. Life is never as simple as following a simple set of steps or methods.

6) Give Examples and Illustrations.
It would be good if the points of the sermon can come with relevant examples and illustrations. It is not necessary that the illustrations must be a joke. Sometimes we can be carried away by it. People end up remembering the joke but not the point we are illustrating. It is also important to find something relevant and suitable to the audience. An adult service may require different sets of examples and illustrations from the youth service. Life examples are good. They allow the people to see real struggles and how problems can be overcome with the help of God. People would tend to appreciate if preachers would reveal more about their own lives. It shows that they too are humans and are not perfect. But God can work something good out of them too.

7) Suggest Possible Applications.
Applications are important but they are often mistaken as things to do. After weeks of sermons, we can be overwhelmed by a list of things to do. How many things can we do every week? We can end up becoming a legalistic Christian. Applications can also be things to reflect. Through the renewing of our minds, our actions will be changed. It is important that our applications are getting people to start thinking before they start doing. Then there will be life transformation.

It is my hope that we will preach to transform lives. We may need to break away from our old molds and try out new ones. God has given us a great and awesome responsibility, so let’s treasure it and do it well.

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Convert or Disciple

Many churches today are under the pressure to grow their churches. It may be a good thing because we can see more people being saved. The Lord is opening up many doors for us in recent years. There are many kinds of social outreach activities churches can be involved in, not just to the locals but also to the migrants as well. We need to seize these opportunities to help these people know the Lord. We need to rise up and develop relevant ministry to help these people.

But we need to be careful not to chase after the numbers blindly. We cannot love the results more than we love the people. There are times we put results over relationships. Sometimes we just want people to convert more than treasure their repentance. As such, we try to make converts first before they know what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. While I understand that a person may take time to grow in the Lord and be committed fully, care need to be taken so that believers understand what repentance means. They cannot just be people who just want the love, grace and blessings of the Lord without repenting and living new lives for God. As a new convert, he is also a new disciple. We should not try to create a stage where people can first become converts then disciples. In the end, we may have greater problems in church because these people have never really believed in the first place. Then we have to get them to  convert again in church.

Disciples need to repent and believe in the Lord. I don’t think there is a easier path. Of course, we can get people into the church first, but let us not rush to make them say the sinner’s prayer until they understand the whole Gospel. Perhaps this is also the reason why Christians are less committed these days compared to the first century. We have unknowingly created a easier path on the way to Calvary. But it may not reach the cross.

Some of us may try to remedy this problem by building better discipleship programs. Yes, it will work well for those who have genuinely believed, but it is fire-fighting to those who have a vague or blind faith. Discipleship must come with a clear decision. It’s not something to sort out after we have made them say the sinner’s prayer. Let us make disciples with integrity. Make true disciples and not just converts.