I recognize there can be a fine line between explaining something and being defensive. Hopefully, this article is motivated by the former and not the latter.
Jesus’ Teaching Methodology
Shortly after arriving in Harlan, I was told over lunch one day that, with respect to my preaching, I should only say things that everyone agrees with.
I’m not sure there are a lot of things we all agree on. But more to the point . . . would such an approach be healthy for us? Would it help us grow in our relationship with Christ?
I don’t think so. Any preacher who plays it safe and doesn’t occasionally ruffle feathers is not fulfilling his calling.
As I study Jesus’ teaching methodology in the Gospels, he often said things that were shocking to his audience . . . be it his disciples, his opponents or “the crowd.” After stirring them up, he then would send them away to think about what he’d said. Sometimes, his listeners came back asking for clarification.
While I am in no way comparing the quality (or depth) of my teaching to Jesus, I do often follow his methodology. I realize this might be upsetting to some of my listeners for a variety of reasons. Perhaps some don’t like to be challenged in their views. Perhaps others like their sermons to come wrapped in a nice box with a pretty bow.
Of course, this doesn’t give me license to say any outrageous thing that comes to my mind. If something I said sounds outrageous to you, I’m willing to bet that it was well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. Even the “outrageous” thing I said last Sunday was practically a direct quote of several well-known, highly respected preachers. The “point” last Sunday was to encourage us to think about the enormity, scope and grandeur of God’s grace, as it applies to the believer.
Here’s another admission that might be disconcerting: There’s a lot I don’t know. Like you, I’m still growing in my understanding of God’s grace and plenty of other spiritual topics as well. The fact is, much of what I present on Sunday morning is merely the product of my own wrestling or grappling with the biblical text that we are studying. I invite you to join me in that process.
All this is further justification for our Statement of Core Beliefs. These are the doctrines we do agree on and, concerning them, we will not accept any teaching to the contrary. If I were to ever stray from these core doctrines, be sure to call me on it.