28 January 2009

Effective Preaching.

"I came forward at church camp in 5th grade and 'invited Jesus into my life as my personal Lord and Savior.' I cried like a baby, too...But then, a few years later, I was a counselor at that camp, and I discovered that the staff set that night up every year. They called it 'Cry Night.' " Link.

So, do you think the young man would have felt just as conned if the preaching were specifically set up so that all the rational, logical arguments for a Saviour were presented instead and it were called "Thought Night?"

Maybe your answer depends on how you think people get "saved" in the first place. Um, or even if you believe in salvation anyway. (Yeah, that would necessitate a way different preaching style for sure.)

Just going back to the Bible, I see all kinds of ways people came to know Christ. There's the Ethopian eunuch, just sitting around reading a scroll when Phillip "happened" by. They discussed some theological questions and ta-da! Instant "I wanna be baptized right NOW" kind of salvation happened. It sure doesn't sound from the account in Acts that Phillip did the old "turn or burn" preaching message on the fellow. He found out about who Christ was, how He fulfilled prophecy and how he could enter in to this promise through belief and baptism. (Acts chapter 8 if you want to read the account.)

Hey, but another way isn't so intellectual. Ananias and Sapphira... could you imagine people dropping dead because the Holy Sprit told your pastor that they didn't give ALL their money to the church? But yet the Bible tells us that "great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things." (Acts 5:11) I'm not sure if that means there were more converts as a result, or if it just meant that people didn't specially want to bicker with Peter after the sermon about some minor point for fear they'd drop dead. But even the book of Esther in the Old Testament recounts that there were conversions because of widespread fear in the land. It isn't just a Christian thing to record conversions and rejoice about them.

My opinion (subject to change without notice) is that pastors should know their "audience" and pray. Ta-da! They of course can change their style if they feel their words are not reaching their audience. I'm not sure that my children all appreciate the same style, either, though they are all going to have to attend the same church whether they like it or not. I guess I wonder where the line between "making sure you're reaching people with the message" and "manipulating people to come forward, cry at the altar and make a huge Christ-commitment" would be. Perhaps that line is cultural. Or perhaps it depends upon the preacher and his motivation. Just thinking alound and I'm always glad to read your thoughts. :]


  1. [know their "audience" and pray]

    Gee, that would be doing exactly what Paul did. You know when he was talking to Jews, he didn't say... in the beginning God. He tried to show them, using their own scripture, why Jesus was the promised Messiah.

    When he was talking to Greeks, he said, "You know that altar you have to the Unknown God? I know Him. He created the world..."

    Oh, and when preaching didn't work, Christ taught his disciples to move on and invest their time, energy and talents in people who wanted to learn.

    None of this sounds a thing like the modern attract them and entertain them church so common today. I think we should go back to the old way. You know the way that the inspired Word describes for us.

    Do you know someone called me opinionated recently. And, it wasn't my daughter... or my husband.

  2. btw, Ananias and Sapphira didn't die because they didn't give all their money to church. They died because they lied to the Holy Spirit. I think that had they been upfront and said, "Hey, we are giving this and we are using this other money to take a cruise around the Mediterranean" I don't think they would have dropped dead.

  3. True, Daja, but if they HAD given the money to the church then they wouldn't have died...

    The Bible account made it sound like they wanted the same recognition others got for that act of service, without the sacrifice they made. They were modern Christians. :]

    Julie I am SO SO tempted to ask you, "WHO was it?" but the answer probably doesn't matter. I'm opinionated, too, but always meek and demure in my expression of disagreement. :p

  4. Culture, motivation... yeah, those are important.

    For me, I don't have a big problem with a "Cry Night" where the focus is on demonstrating your need for a savior and getting an emotion response.

    But you can't leave it there. You must not just get a kids emotions and then not have a bunch of "Thought Nights" after that--I like the technical term is "Bible Study"... you know, where you actually academically study the Bible? Yeah, those are super important too. And the fact that too little actual thought goes into most people's Sunday School classes is not such a good thing.

    ...before I start down a long road of ranting, I shall stop. Because that's all I've got to say at the moment [smile].


  5. I think it is perhaps more a case of *know your Christ; preach Him only*...if you follow me. If you speak only what He has given you to speak it will reach those it has been appointed to reach & there is no need for these manipulative gymnastics.

  6. The reason why I love my church so much is because they are not afraid to teach the bible exactly as it is. I've been to churches where they "dance" around the subjects of sin. I don't want to have to guess at what he is saying. I want it black and white. Since the bible says that even a child can understand it, I take that literal too. Some times one of my kids will come up to me and say something from the bible that they are thinking about. "Mommy, the bible says liars can't go to heaven". I could probably dance around that subject, but he understood it exactly as the bible states. That's why I love hearing kids talk about God. I remember asking Jesus into my heart too. I had a healthy fear of Heaven and Hell.

  7. It is interesting to see the wide variances of belief and thought and study that make each of us, as Christians, espouse a different way of being in the world, even with our children and family. I often wonder what God makes of it all..the paths that all these "churches" have taken to arrive at His gate. I, for one, am more inclined to believe that the Gate is open very wide, because my God is so full of love and mercy..that I believe He meets us at death, and gives us one last chance to come forward and rest in peace with him. But then, I'm big on the redemptive power of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives. It's all about taking the lowly sinner/human who struggles daily to find the right path, and is always in need of God's redeeming love. So, not much hell preaching at the Malone's, but a whole lot of love believing! ;) And I absolutely despise the manipulation of young people's emotions into making them cry..not that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit has not made me cry before, it has..but just yanking people through emotional manipulation into "saving them" and then not knowing what comes after..is one of the things I hate the most about Church camps. Ours was not that way, but tried a more loving, bringing us to Christ, through the power of love.


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)