[from Preaching Now, Vol. 8, No. 19 May 26 , 2009]
TAKING RISKS TO REACH PEOPLE
In his book Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley points out that we are too often hesitant to try different approaches in our preaching. We defend old habits to excuse our unwillingness to stretch ourselves. Then he poses this question:
"What if you had a 16-year-old son who said he was coming to church one last time and then he was packing up and hitting the road for good. And what if in the middle of the night an angel appeared and said, 'You can reach the heart of your son if you do exactly what I tell you. Go into your attic and find his old box of Legos. On Sunday preach a message around this one point: Christ came to build a bridge to the disconnected. The entire time you are preaching you are to construct a bridge using his Legos.' ...
"If that really happened to you, I feel confident that you would not respond by saying, 'But I'm not good with visual aids.' Neither would you say, 'I can't do that in my church. It would require removing the pulpit.' If you really believed that getting way outside your comfort zone on a Sunday morning would reach your teenage son, you would do it.
It is not the content of what is said; it’s the way it is said that really matters.
This is a prevalent and interesting assumption in our society. If only we could say the thing someone needs to hear with just the right ‘trimmings’ – THEN people would be convinced.
When you think about it for a moment, it is a rather odd assumption.
If only we would put the gospel into the form of a computer game, THEN people would believe it. If only we would make the Bible appear on a giant screen in the sky with great sound effects, THEN people would believe it. If only [fill in this blank with your most amazing and astounding idea], THEN people would believe.
I don’t doubt that some would play the computer game, gaze into the sky for a while, or whatever you can imagine. But that is not the point.
Interesting it is, then, to reflect on words that Jesus once put, approvingly, into the mouth of Abraham: “If they won't pay attention to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even to someone who comes back from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
Well, perhaps they won’t listen to someone who came back from the dead. But if we had Legos, that would be an entirely different matter – entirely different.
I don’t really object to object lessons. But this idea that what is crucial is the right ‘window dressing’ is, when you think about it, rather silly. According to the Apostle Paul, it is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation. While Andy Stanley and his kin might think the perfect illustration constructed from Legos (or anything else like that) is the key to this matter, everything about the Christian faith says that Andy and company have missed the point, and missed it rather significantly.