I’m reading a book called Faith Undone by Roger Oakland. It is a critique of the emergent church movement. I’ve been struggling with reading it. While I have concerns about the emergent church movement I feel that Oakland is putting practice on the level of orthodoxy and that is a mistake.
I think critical questions are good. Just like a missionary wouldn’t go into a country and minister to the indigenous people like he or she would in the United States I feel the Church needs to address how to connect with upcoming generations. There was a quote he referenced by Doug Pagitt, pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN, in his book Church Re-imaged regarding sermons that gave me pause.
At Solomon’s Porch, sermons are not primarily about my extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives. In many ways the sermon is less a lecture or motivational speech than it is an act of poetry – of putting words around people’s experiences to allow them to find deeper connection in their lives… So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation.
Huh? I’m not against telling stories – Jesus did all the time, but it was stories that connected to truth. I’m also not against discussion or participation. I think sermons should and can connect with people where they are at in life because the Word of God is living and active and it connects, (Hebrews 4:12).
Pagitt’s description of preaching doesn’t quite jive with scripture in my mind for instance as Paul charges Timothy his beloved child in Jesus:
I 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, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry, (2 Timothy 4:1-5, ESV).
To me, and I fully admit I could be wrong as I can’t get into Pagitt’s head, it seems that with Emergent Village there is appealing to “itching ears.” With “stories that welcome our hopes and ideas” what if those hopes and ideas are contrary to scriptural truth? If Pagitt isn’t extracting truth, what is he extracting? What authority does he have when he preaches? How does he respond to Paul’s admonition to Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” (Titus 2:1, ESV)?
I know that some take Paul’s epistles through a cultural exegetical wringer. So there is probably a counter-argument here. The Apostle Peter warns of this as well:
… be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 3:14-18, ESV).
What do you think? What is the purpose of preaching?