Of course it is!
…He says with a cheeky grin ☺. I actually wrote this piece some time ago after visiting another church and experiencing the “abomination of desolation” that is topical preaching. It is true (if you hadn’t guessed yet) I am not a fan of topical preaching. Scripture should form not only the foundation of our sermons but the entirety of what we say week in week out to the community of God’s people. As Goldingay argues, “I would not want to argue that all preaching must be text centred – though 95 percent of my own is. There is a place for topical preaching, though it may become a sin when indulged in too often” (1995, p.9). Having spent many years in a church that only preached topical messages I became Biblically illiterate and anaemic to the text itself. Scripture was thrown around so wastefully and casually that it almost seemed to lose its Holiness. it is what i would call Biblical reductionism I realise that this is not the case for everyone and many have stories of the boring ‘Bible’ only preachers who have driven many from the church with their endless genealogies. Nevertheless, the text must set the context of our proclamation.
The place of scripture and preaching within the community of God’s people raises for me more questions than any other topic and less answers than any other problem. I remember lamenting to a friend not too long ago that the only people who seem to defend preaching as the primary means by which we proclaim the gospel and teach about the Christian life are preachers themselves. Why is this so? We live in a society obsessed with a ‘practical’ approach to the Bible. People come to church expecting the preacher to provide them with answers and ‘practical’ approaches to the text in order that they might live a Biblical life. Where did we ever get the idea that every time we hear Holy Scripture we should receive a ‘practical’ answer?
Holy Scripture and the pulpit belong together like peas and carrots. As Goldingay so eloquently describes, “The Bible is entirely at home in the pulpit because its words were spoken and written to do something along the same lines. “It is the preaching book because it is the preaching book.” Biblical statue, wisdom, prophecy, and epistle overtly urge people toward more confident faith or questioning and more specific commitment away from disobedience or false trust. Biblical narrative, poetry, and psalmody have similar aims. They offer not merely historical information or aesthetic experience or cultic record but implicit invitation. One reason why works of various kinds were collected and eventually became “scriptures” was so that they might continue to effect something in the lives of people.” (1995, p.9). As preachers and teachers we must remain faithful to the task of understanding, dwelling in, and interpreting the Biblical narrative. As Matthias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece so wonderfully depicts; like John the Baptist we stand with a bible in one hand and our other hand points to the crucified Christ. Holy Scripture at every turn points us to the Word of God revealed in Jesus Christ. It is only as we faithfully teach and proclaim the text before us, and not our own ideas, that we faithfully proclaim the Word of God!