A Defense for Doctrinal Preaching
“A faith which does not find its justification outside itself remains imprisoned in its own ego and cannot be sustained.” –Wolfhart Pannenberg
As a minister I am often asked for advice about some aspect of living. “How can I improve my marriage?” “What scriptures should I read to deal my problems with anger or addiction?” “Do you have a good book on prayer?” Such questions I gladly receive and I do try to be helpful.
There are also times when people ask me to preach on related themes, themes that exude practicality and address the current political or cultural conditions. And I am sympathetic to such requests. I believe that Scripture has a word to say to ordinary living and working.
And so, it may seem strange to many of you that I announce a series of sermons that have no seeming pragmatic, life-application purpose to them. Just to get it out in the open, I propose to take the next eight weeks and preach from texts that simply declare core convictions or beliefs of the Christian faith.
Doctrinal preaching—there I said it.
Some of you may be already thinking that February would be a great time to spend the weekends at your in-laws in North Carolina—except that you would have to spend the weekend with your in-laws!
But here is the catch. And I want you to know that I believe what I am about to say with all my heart. I believe that these “doctrinal messages” are the most vital, life-giving, and practical messages that I could offer to those who have ears connected to hearts.
Are you still with me?
Doctrinal preaching is exciting and quite down to earth if we remember two things. First, the most important thing in life is not a thing—it’s relationships. And living the Christian life is, at its core, living in a vibrant relationship with God and others. This one is relatively easy for most of us to agree with. Sure, we understand that the Christian faith is about relationships. In fact, that is why we often resist the thought of studying something as stodgy and dull as doctrine!
However, if we wish to have a real, authentic relationship with God and with other humans, then we will have to do more than just work on our manners (and this is the second thing to remember!) We are going to have to look at the very core of the person we wish to be close to. And to be close to God, to really know and love and relate to the Eternal One means that we will have to get to know Him better!
So if we are really serious about a relationship with the One who Creates, Renews, and Sustains, then we might find it helpful to delve into Scripture and reflection on Scripture that helps us understand and follow God.
So for a few weeks in our Sunday assemblies we will look at some of the most central ideas and claims of the Christian faith—in order to know God better. We may explore things you already know, but I expect that even as you continue to learn more about a favorite uncle or aunt, you will find out more about God that will cause you to smile or even be amazed!
By delving into the heart of the faith, we will also become better acquainted with God’s Story. And the better we know the story, the better we will come to know the One who breathes that story over us ever day. So join us as we explore what makes living and knowing and loving God worth doing—worth living and sharing with others!