Humble Confidence

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Examine the doctrinal statements of evangelical churches, and you’ll find that most of us use the same words to explain our view of the Bible. We say that it’s inspired, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative. But sit through the worship services of these churches, and you’ll observe stark differences in how their pastors preach.

To some degree, these differences flow from their personalities. Some pastors are intellectual and bookish. Others are very emotional. Some come across as kind of jolly and entertaining, while others are intense. Personality differences aside, different preaching styles are also indicative of different conceptions about how we think about communicating God’s truth.

The Apostle Paul summed up his instructions on preaching in 2 Timothy 4:1-2: I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Paul expresses some tensions here. Preaching must be urgent but also patient, confrontational but also encouraging, commanding but also instructional. Is it any surprise that even the most diligent pastors find it hard to strike the right balance?

As I have thought through these tensions, I attempt to make it very clear that God’s Word is the authority not me. This comes out in a number of ways.

I work very hard at drawing our attention to the words of Scripture. I encourage you to follow along in your own copy of the Bible as I read. I devote significant time in a sermon to explaining the terms and concepts used in a passage. Where there are significant differences of interpretation, I explain them. On most Sundays the outline of my sermon even reflects the flow  of thought in a passage.

I also try to keep our attention on the words of Scripture by what I don’t do. Some pastors are so entertaining, that you walk away from a sermon remembering their stories and jokes rather than the passage. I still use illustrations, but I don’t really emphasize them. I keep them brief and focused on explaining the passage.

I emphasize focusing on Scripture to express my absolute confidence in God and the words He has given us in the Bible. I do not apologize for Scripture, and I do not hold back from addressing any biblical subject, even if it may seem offensive to our culture. At the same time, I do try to be gracious, clear, and balanced when I address controversial issues.

Finally, I place a strong emphasis on personally applying God’s Word. I always challenge people to think of a next step that they should take in response to God’s Word. Some pastors are strong and direct in telling people what needs to change in their lives. But people often walk away from this kind of preaching feeling as if they’ve only heard the pastor’s opinion, not God’s. I want any sense of conviction people experience to be from the Holy Spirit, not from any effort on my part to manipulate their emotions.

So what difference does any of this make outside of a worship service? Over time people in a church tend to approach Scripture and communicate Scripture the same way that their pastor preaches. My hope is that we’ll all grow to show a consistently humble heart toward God and His Word, and a humble confidence in His authoritative truth as we share it with others.

– Bryan Craddock


Print your tickets