Sunday, March 20, 2005

Judging/Being discriminating about Sermons

Comparing doodles made during the course of the sermon this weekend, we had to grapple with the discrimination vs judgmentalism problem again.

At first, there were strong defensive arguments that we should not discuss the sermon negatively; that we should allow the young preacher time to improve and that youthful looks was the reason for his lack of credibility.

After about an hour, however, we all agreed that much as we may be fond of the preacher and not want to discourage him, we must not allow this to colour an objective analysis of the sermon.

Many were wary of being seen as judgemental (that Sermon on the Mount Matthew 7 no-no). Jesus' command of non-judgementalism however appears to have nothing to do with espousing moral relativism, nor tossing brains out the window (straight after, he also commands us not to throw pearls before swine. Obedience to this command surely requires some discrimination).

It is not analysis that we must be cautious about, but the spirit in which we approach such analysis. We should discriminate with the humility of knowing that we too are absolute failures in God’s eyes and that if we were in such a circumstance, if not for the grace of God, we too might foul up in the same way, for Jesus warns us that the standard which we use to judge, we ourselves will be judged. Certainly the renewed mind the Spirit gives us as Christians should allow us to perceive correctly our own modest position.

However, preaching is a public ministry and so by its nature, affects many more people. Imagine the impact of bad preaching turning away a newcomer, a friend who after much persuasion agreed to come to service…just once…, or a back-slidden Christian tentatively returning for service for the first time…Yes God is sovereign and he will save whom he will save. But we are also held responsible for the consequences of our actions. If we stumble others, we will have to account to God for that. If we allow preachers to stumble others, we will also have to account to God for that.

Poor young preacher. We do love him and pray he'll improve. Or conceivably that there will be people to vet his sermons before they come out. Or perhaps that another staffworker more gifted in preaching will take over these duties so he can concentrate on areas in which he has more talent. Who'll put the bell on the cat?

Alas...the shadowlands...

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