I've had a couple of conversations recently with Erik and he has shared with me some thoughts from Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City. The point? Our teaching and preaching must be Christ centered.
While that might sound obvious, it can be a real challenge in our needs oriented church culture that we live in.
The present premise? Preach about felt needs and you will draw a crowd.
To a certain extend that is true. There are needs in every chair (or pew) in the church. We all come each Sunday with hurts, wounds and trials we are experiencing. But perhaps what we can learn from Tim Keller is that they way to connect and meet those needs is not necessarily to explain "how to" but to draw people simply to Christ.
In the book The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching, Tim Keller talks about the danger of preaching pragmatism -- calling people to follow Christ because it "works", i.e. it yields the best results. Keller writes:
"Today's preacher must argue against the self-serving pragmatism of postmodernity. The gospel does say that through it you find your life, but that first you must lose your life. I must say to people, "Christ will 'work' for you only if you are true to him whether he works for you or not. You must not come to him because he is fulfilling (though he is) but because he is true. If you seek to meet him in order to get your needs met, you will not meet him or get your needs met. To become a Christian is not to get help for your agenda but to take on a whole new agenda -- the will of God. You must obey him because you owe him your life, because he is your Creator and Redeemer."
This is a critical and difficult balance for the Christian preacher...Once you have drawn in people with the amazing relevance and practical wisdom of the gospel, you must confront them with the most pragmatic issue of all -- the claim of Christ to be absolute Lord of life.
My goal [is] to preach truth instead of pragmatism. Christian morality is not true because it works; it works because it's true."
Powerful words. I come to Christ not to see my agenda met, but to buy into and connect with His agenda.
Good thoughts for all of us today. "Father, may we lay down our agendas and pick up yours."