This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series: That’s not what I call preaching
Willow Creek Community Church is one of the largest and most influential churches in the world. Its senior pastor, Bill Hybels, travels globally, teaching church leaders how to manage their congregations more effectively.
The following Issues Etc. podcast drew my attention to a recent sermon of Hybel’s:-
The sermon itself can be accessed here, but you have to pay up to $10.50 for it.
Hybel’s message can easily be summarised: when Jeremiah was given tough assignments by God, he never gave up. So, when ‘Creekers’ (members of Willow Creek) take on assignments, they should follow Jeremiah’s example by persevering despite setbacks and disappointments.
On the ‘plus’ side, this sermon does deal directly with the biblical text at a surface level, offering some insight into the difficulties Jeremiah faced, and reminding us that serving God is not always easy or straightforward.
But one of the most fundamental lessons that novice preachers are taught (or should be taught) is that you can’t just make a bee-line from a Bible character to the Christian and say, “Be like that” (‘Dare to be a Daniel’; ‘Be a Jeremiah’). In Hybel’s message, there is no indication of how Jeremiah and his message fits into the overall scheme of God’s purposes as taught in Scripture. And, more seriously yet, there is no focus on Christ. Christ himself taught that the Old Testament Scriptures testify of him. Paul determined that his focus would be ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’. But Jesus is not even mentioned in Hybel’s sermon (except incidentally, when he mentions ‘fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ’).
In summary then, a message which merely draws moral lessons from a biblical character is not what I call preaching.
Perhaps this sermon is not representative of Hybel’s preaching. I hope it isn’t. But it’s not what I call preaching. And it’s not worth $10.50.
To be honest, though, this makes me think back over my own amateurish attempts to preach from the Old Testament and to wonder how many times I have made the same mistake. Lord Jesus, may we who are privileged to preach your word never fail to proclaim from all the Scriptures the things concerning yourself.