and all of the other entertainment driven, felt needs marketed churches have gone back to the future. Found this about a movement in the 1920’s. So much for progress.
The notion that Scripture itself is inadequate for evangelism is certainly not new. Nor is the strategy of trying to update the gospel message by using the fashion of the day to make it more appealing. A 1928 article by the infamous Harry Emerson Fosdick argued bitterly that expository preaching is inherently irrelevant:
Within a paragraph or two after a sermon has started, wide areas of any congregation ought to begin recognizing that the preacher is tackling something of vital concern to them.â€¦ And if any preacher is not doing this, even though he have at his disposal both erudition and oratory, he is not functioning at all.
Many preachers, for example, indulge habitually in what they call expository sermons. They take a passage from Scripture and, proceeding on the assumption that the people attending church that morning are deeply concerned about what the passage means, they spend their half hour or more on historical exposition of the verse or chapter, ending with some appended practical application to the auditors. Could any procedure be more surely predestined to dullness and futility? Who seriously supposes that, as a matter of fact, one in a hundred of the congregation cares, to start with, what Moses, Isaiah, Paul, or John meant in those special verses, or came to church deeply concerned about it? Nobody who talks to the public so assumes that the vital interests of the people are located in the meaning of words spoken two thousand years ago.â€¦
Preachers who pick out texts from the Bible and then proceed to give their historic settings, their logical meaning in the context, their place in the theology of the writer, with a few practical reflections appended, are grossly misusing the Bible.ï»¿ 1ï»¿
Fosdick, of course, was a noted infidel who rejected Scripture altogether. His philosophy was that the preacher must never start from Scripture and preach to his people; rather he should start with his people’s interests and felt needs, and then reason his way to some supposed solution of their perceived problems. If Scripture could be used for illustrative purposes, fine, but it was never to be the starting point:
The modern preacher â€¦ should clearly visualize some real need, perplexity, sin, or desire in his auditors, and then should throw on the problem all the light he can find in the Scripture or anywhere else. No matter what one’s theory about the Bible is, this is the effective approach to preaching. The Bible is a searchlight, not so much intended to be looked at as to be thrown upon a shadowed spot.ï»¿ 2ï»¿
There is nothing that people are so interested in as themselves, their own problems, and the way to solve them. That fact is basic. No preaching that neglects it can raise a ripple on a congregation.ï»¿ 3ï»¿
Ironically, that liberal, humanistic approach to preaching is precisely the route many who call themselves evangelical are taking today. The pastor of one large church echoes Fosdick’s philosophy: “We have put a lot of time and thought into what non-churched people want from a Sunday morning service, and we have concluded that they basically want four things: Anonymity, uncomplicated teaching, a non-threatening environment, and contemporary relevancy.”
MacArthur, John, F., Jr: Our Sufficiency in Christ. Electronic ed. Dallas, TX : Word Publishing, 1997, c1991, S. 147
Relax, the liberalism mentioned isn’t political, it was a movement in the church that said the ends justify the means. If that doesn’t capture a church that allows the type of garbage that is spewed forth today, nothing ever will.