Much of the church today is led by modern dynamic, relevant, therapeutic, creative, imaginative and liberal thinking, modern, dynamic and liberal thinking that completely misses the point of how to effectively communicate the gospel and it diminishes the resplendent light of the gospel by shining the podium spotlight on dynamism, human effort, professional practices and the speakers ability rather than keeping the spotlight on the God we are serving, His Word and the power of the gospel dissected in exegetical form.
What Led to the Shift:
Much of this has to do with the shift from modernism to post-modernism, which has welcomed culture and the church into an age of skepticism, decline in objective thinking, and decline in church attendance or a decline in interests towards dogma and doctrinal statements of faith. In short, it has taken an objectively black and white culture ruled more by principles and absolutes and blurred the lines, thrown in a hundred shades of color, painted outside the lines, thrown out the rules, and launched us into a grey world that is more interested in mixing all the colors, scrapping all the rules, mixing ideas together and unifying everyone under the law of political correctness.
Unfortunately –in large part, the churches response to this shift has resulted in a church drowning in a confused ocean full of skepticism, subjectivism and frantic modern reformation, as modern evangelicalism is scrambling and reaching for answers, new church paradigms, methodology shifts and sprinting towards church revitalization in a desperate attempt to inject breath, vitality, renewal and vigor into the suffocating lungs of the church for fear of the church becoming tired, old, boring, breathless, powerless and anemic.
An Infusion of Dynamic-Focused Preaching:
Although this cultural shift has elicited many evangelical responses one of the responses is an infusion of dynamical preaching from the pulpit, a evangelical and cultural response that has led to radical reformation of how we approach the church pulpit and the methods we use to communicate the gospel to a post-modern, colorful, non-black-and-white, skeptical or subjective culture who is supposedly un-interested in hearing objective truth.
Despite all the confusion and all the re-modelling talk, the stance for truth seems to have been lost in all the hype and the process, and much of the energy and focus has shifted into putting all the energy into training up preaches that are dynamic, but lack the ability to unlock the scriptures, preach truth, understand the Bible objectively and communicate the saving power of the gospel to a hopeless, lost, confused, subjective world who is inadvertently screaming for truth and absolutes amongst their subjective attempts to find anything concrete to hold onto in a subjectively spinning world.
What is Dynamic Preaching:
Dynamic in many forms means infused full of energy, to be forceful, to be changing, and full of motion or excitement. In terms of preaching from the pulpit, and in regards to the modern church shifts, dynamic preaching basically means preaching that is infused full of life, passion, energy, imagination, passion, hype –full of motion, full of pictures and rich with media.
Dynamic preaching is also often defined by focusing largely on the deliver of the sermon by focusing on tone, pitch, inflection, speed of speech, by appealing to all 5 senses and by fluctuating up and down the full spectrum of all of these things above in a such a way that makes a speaker exciting and colorful to listen to.
However, despite the shift, there are many reasons why dynamic preaching –although not completely terrible bi-passes the true point of gospel-centered preaching almost entirely. Here are 7 reasons how, imaginative, creative, and dynamic preaching is hijacking truth in the church:
#1 – It Bi-passes the Power of the Holy-Spirit:
I’ve been to churches where dynamic preachers got up on the stage with no notes, no pulpit, fancy lights, polished focus statements, great repetition, great inflection and impressive variance in speed and tone –basically they relied on dynamic approaches to get their message across. I’ve also seen preachers who have sat on stages and preached from a rocking chair by telling a nice moving story, then ended the sermon with hardly any conviction, teaching or even opening the Bible.
None of them were bad messages, but there wasn’t too much Biblical about them, either. When we rely on dynamic elements and professional abilities to deliver God’s messages we minimize God’s power and leave little room for the Holy Spirit to do His work through a surrendered vessel. When a speaker is more interested in speaking 90% of his own thoughts and more focused on being dynamic, exciting, walking all over the stage, then he is dedicated to unpacking and delivering God’s Word, the Holy Spirit doesn’t bless messages or churches like that.
#2 – It Shifts The Focus on the Speaker; Not God:
When everyones eyes are glued to the excitement of the preacher, and people’s emotions are constantly being stirred up, majority of people’s eyes are focused on the speaker; not on God. When everyone is hanging on every move the Pastor or speaker makes and people aren’t even looking at their Bibles to test what the speaker is saying, it becomes a big problem.
This is because, the goal of the church and the Pastor is to help people understand what the context of the text says as a whole, which means sermons have nothing to do with the speaker at all and have everything to do with how we extract the treasures of the text and how we unpack God’s message hidden in the lines of the Bible. Preaching is more about who we are learning about; not about the speaker, at all.
#3 – It Kills Deep Expository Preaching:
Expository preaching is basically the opposite of topical preaching. Topical preaching is a style of sermon delivery that focuses primarily on a topic, then finds verses to support the chosen topic. This method is not wrong. But it’s not expository preaching, in which the nature of expository preaching is to study the full text in context in order to explain what the text is saying while pulling out points from the text.
The only danger of dynamic preaching, creativity, and topical messages is when the preacher often pushes their own agenda’s, takes the text out of context, mishandles the text because he didn’t weigh it in full context or when a preacher makes dynamic preaching the main full-time focus.
This is dangerous, because it rarely gives the chance to go through the entire books of the Bible and it leaves little energy to focus on painting a picture of the history behind the text and why it all needs to work together to deliver one unified message or idea to the congregation or readers. Dynamism kills expository preaching, because it is more focused on the means of delivery, then the purpose of the message or the person the message is about.
#4 – It Exchanges Supportive Speaker Elements For Truth:
Trying to bridge the gap between the historical and old ancient pages of the text and making it come alive to relevant audiences may be the hardest job the preacher is tasked with. That’s why using our surroundings, technology or creativity to drive the point home or illustrate God’s Word, isn’t wrong.
However, when dynamic preaching begins to rely on movement away from the pulpit, relevancy, creativity, technology, and appealing to everyones emotions and their senses or becomes more about doing a skit in replacement of good sound expository preaching, it starts to exchange the less important supportive aspects of preaching — the supportive speaker elements –for the truth.
#5 – It Builds UnBiblical and Doctrinally Bankrupt Churches:
When dynamical preaching is the focus, instead of strong expositional preaching in the church. When people come to the church and it begins to grow, because people like a short, quick, therapeutic emotionally-stirring, simple and exciting message done by a super enthusiastic preacher who runs around the stage like he is an actor, the church eventually starts to operate on unbiblical ideals and the church is in threat of becoming doctrinally Bankrupt.
This is for the simple fact that dynamic preaching has become the focus of the church and the preacher, instead of learning how to teach the texts properly. Filling the seats becomes the focus. As a result, most of the sermon prep time is spent in research of finding relevant things to say, studying analytics and focusing on perfect sermon delivery or professional performance rather than being faithful to understand the text and trusting the Holy Spirit to convict people and put passion in the preacher as he remains faithful to preaching hard texts that he’d rather skip over.
#6 – It Emphasizes An Extemporaneous Performance:
Not everyone is a performer. Not everyone is dynamic. Not everyone has an exciting voice and is filled with burning passion when they speak. Tons of great speakers can’t make things up on the spot. This is also not a mandatory pre-requisite or goal of a faithful preacher of the text. Instead, the goal of the preacher is to spend adequate time alone in prayer and dedicated time with the text so that he can be faithful to communicate God’s Holy Word properly to the congregation for the uplifting and building up of the church body.
(James 3:1) says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” This is because the preacher will give account for his public interpretations, opinions and human-spoken words of God’s Holy text and he will be judged more harshly by how he choses to use the text to teach and feed God’s children.
Extemporaneous preaching, which is a big focus of dynamic modern preaching in the church today, is a dangerous way to butcher the text, eliminate preachers that rely on word-for-word manuscripts, eliminate introverted preachers who love to dive deep into reading and enjoy being alone for hours to discover the hidden gems in faithful scripture reading. Its a dangerous way to eliminate preachers who aren’t comfortable standing up to perform on the spot, and it’s a dangerous way to communicate way too many human opinions that are to be judged more harshly by God on the day of final judgement. We need to be careful to not make preaching a performance. It’s a corrective and encouragement tool God uses to teach his people, His Word.
#7 – It May Silence The Most Powerfully Inadequate Leaders:
Moses was one of the most influential leaders who led thousands of God’s people to do some of the most radical and inspiring things in the history of the Bible. He also had a speech impediment and felt unequipped to be used as a mouthpiece for God.
If we rule out people who have lisps, speech impediments, monotone voices, people who are un-exciting to listen to, or people who don’t move around with incredible passion, then we may silence some of the most powerful leaders of our age by putting a standard on them that God never intended them to be measured by, just because they won’t move away from the pulpit.
It’s important to note that the reason Moses excelled so much was not because he had taken tons of public speaking classes, spoke at hundreds of extemporaneous open-mic nights, or had 3 seminary degrees. Moses was successful in leading God’s people because he opened up his ears and surrendered his heart to hear and speak what God wanted him to say. God can tune anyones voice, give them passion, use burning bushes or use a monotone voice to communicate some of the most earth-shattering messages of all time. He doesn’t need the person, their ability or their voice. He requires faithfulness, He requires our surrender.
Bringing it all Together:
In the end, the battle is not against elimination of dynamic preaching, or advocating for boring mono-tone expositional preachers. Many could use a balance. Instead, the battle is against protecting truth. That God’s life-giving and powerful Word would be the passionate pursuit and emphasis of every message delivered on God’s Holy pulpit.
Dynamism, speed, variation, tone, object lessons, creativity, technology and movement are not the enemy, but they can soon become the enemy if they replace the focus of preaching God’s truth from the pulpit, force every preacher to be dynamic and move around, and program congregational standards to expect dynamic preaching over learning to have excitement to hear Gods truth through His surrendered vessels. no matter how they sound.
Truth should be the focus. In fact, most of my growth has come from the least dynamic preachers, from online audio sermons, and videos of speakers and preachers who stood in one spot and simply expounding the text in a way that explained the text so that truth could come alive. Rarely, did I leave saying how incredible the speaker was. I always left excited about how the preacher helped me understand how much cooler and more magnificent God is. It was truth that left me excited, not hype or dynamic performance.
If the methods become the message we push at church and doctrine and truth become second, then we have to be okay going back to basics and we have to be okay with trusting that God will bless that, grow his church and use His Word and His words to inspire preachers who are more concerned with preaching His message, then the latest and fanciest dynamic-focused ways of delivering His truths. If monotone and un-dynamically spoken truth and messages that help us understand God are boring, then we have a world-wide heart and world-wide cultural church problem. Truth is exciting. You don’t have to dress it up!