The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. -- 1Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
This may seem like I am picking on Carey Nieuwhof as yesterday's devotional was also about him but I am just cleaning up unwritten devotional topics from 2019. The above link is to an article by Nieuwhof from last year that identifies future trends in preaching. As you will see however, his suggestions and answers are all carnal in nature and devoid of the one trend a preacher needs to always be aware of -- preach the Gospel. Let us reason once more together.
"In a culture where everything's changing, so is preaching. Sure"the message never changes, but the method has to if you want to be effective. What worked in preaching a decade ago is less effective today, not because the scripture or Gospel has changed, but because the culture has. The fact that 70-80% of all churches are plateaued or declining and the rash of deconversions we're seeing are evidence that in many cases, what used to be effective isn't anymore. This is a post I wrote with Mark Clark, Lead Pastor of Village Church, a church that reaches over 5000 people each weekend in post-Christian, post-modern Vancouver BC. Mark and I also created The Art of Better Preaching online, on-demand course, which is designed to help you improve your preaching and preach to the church and unchurched effectively, all without compromising the message. Here are some trends in preaching Mark and I are seeing that are helping preachers become more effective." -- Carey Nieuwhof
One of the fundamental errors of the NAR and the purpose driven church is that the Gospel needs to be changed in some manner in order to reach the lost in this generation. They try, as Nieuwhof does here, to pretend that they do not mean changing the actual message but that is exactly what they do. Anyone schooled in the purpose driven church knows that you do not preach sin and repentance for fear of scaring away the unsaved goats. What does not work today that may have worked in another era are schemes. The Gospel always works. The Gospel transcends all generations and cultures. The Gospel that saved the 6th century serf, also saved the 19th century factory worker and it is the same Gospel that saved me. It does not matter if your church reaches 5000 people a week with a gospel that cannot save them. It is so sad but understandable that people who are not saved themselves, cannot understand the true dynamic at play here. It is not that there is a rash of deconversions. This is the same mistake Andy Stanley made recently. It is that they were never saved to begin with. Making people say a microwaved sinner's prayer without discussing sin and repentance is utterly meaningless. What is worse is that the Andy Stanley's and Carey Nieuwhof's of the world then declare the goat saved. Also of note here is that a "plateaued" church is a ridiculous and unbiblical concept. In the purpose driven marketplace the church must always be "growing" numerically and they measure health based upon these purely carnal metrics. A church however that is strong with whatever number God has given them has not "plateaued" merely because God has not recently added to their number. Let us examine the trends they see that are making preachers more effective.
"1. MORE NUANCED THOUGHT, LESS DIATRIBE (CAREY). It's never been easier to rant. Nor has it ever been more tempting to lash out at the culture, or defiantly explain why you're right and everyone else is wrong. It's also a deadly mistake. That is if you want to reach unchurched people. Because the culture is morphing so quickly into deeper post-Christian, post-modern waters than ever, many Christians feel defensive, angry and (honestly) scared. We see culture as the enemy. If God so loved the world, why do so many preachers behave like he hates it? Your anger isn't attracting unchurched people, it's repulsing them. What's better than ranting is nuanced thought and an open mind. Thought that shows you've done your research. Done some homework. And openness that suggests you considered the other side and other points of view. And perhaps enough humility to suggest that there are some really good questions people have about Christianity, in the same way, people have questions about life and other worldviews. I find when I preach and speak in that tone (as I shared in this post) there's a young, curious, interested audience that wants to hear more. Most of us, especially younger, unchurched people, are tired of the diatribe, the spin and the angry, entrenched defense. They want open, honest dialogue, and nuanced thinking. This doesn't mean you don't have convictions. I have very deep, rather orthodox convictions about the Gospel and the Christian faith. What it does mean is that when you speak, far more people listen." -- Carey Nieuwhof
Once again, this is what happens when someone without the Holy Ghost tries to explain what is only spiritually discerned. The key verse today makes this abundantly clear. The things of God are spiritually discerned. Without the spirit you end up thinking you cannot speak against sin because it makes it seem as if God hates the world? No! God hates sin! God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to save people OUT of the world. Now the NAR purpose driven infrastructure loves the world. That is why they love dominionism and politics. That is why they are obsessed with reviving America. Carey Nieuwhof clearly has no clue what the Gospel is about. It is not about considering the points of view on the other side. The other side leads people straight to hell. Narrow is the way and few are those who find it because Carey Nieuwhof is leading them astray. Consider other points of view? Are you serious? Jesus said I am the way the truth and the light and NONE come to the Father except through me. I am sorry Carey but there is nothing "nuanced" about Christianity. The reason why the unsaved world does not want to hear it has nothing to do with the style in which the message is conveyed but rather the message itself. The Gospel divides mother from daughter and father from son, not the pitch of the pastor preaching it. What difference does it make if more people listen to you while you do not give them the words that can lead to eternal life? You want an honest dialogue Carey? You are a sinner Carey and you are going to hell because of it. You are a wolf who has led many astray and will answer for each and every one of them. There is a savior though Carey. You can bring Him your sins and repent! Turn the other way from them, renounce the world you worship, pick up your cross, follow Him and enter into the kingdom. Sorry if that was not nuanced enough for you but you need a spiritual tourniquet, not a Band-Aid.
"2. NOT STICKING TO CHRISTIAN THINGS (MARK). As preachers, we are Christians (we hope), which means we swim in theology, Christian worldviews, actions, lifestyles, politics, etc., -- all the time. And if we do that too long we tend to forget what actual people believe (it changes from generation to generation!) and feel and think about and wonder about. I fundamentally don't believe sermons are just for Christians, or 'the church'. Jesus certainly didn't preach like that, nor did the prophets! Their sermons hit both the religious and the irreligious over and over again. They spoke to people who were believers and who weren't -- and I think we should too. We should constantly be flowing back and forth in our sermons between (a) Equipping the saints on the one hand (and not just with conclusions, but taking them a bit along the pathway to how we go there biblically. In other words, teaching them not just what to think but how to think), and (b) Speaking to the non-Christian, which means engaging their questions, and worldviews at an informed level and in a winsome and persuasive way (I know preacher that sounds like a lot of work, and reading and research! But this is the gig, especially if you want your church to grow with actual non-Christians). For example, this fall I will be doing a series called Anything Goes at our church. It's content that got decided by a voting system. Anyone on the internet could ask any question they wanted the church to answer. Nothing was off-limits. We controlled nothing. Then once all the questions were compiled into categories we got people to vote on the top 15 questions and we would answer the top 7. I just got the results today and you want to know what the top question is? It's not gay or transgendered issues, though that is certainly in the top 7. It's not evil and suffering and evolution, though they are all in there. The top question? "Does the Bible allow for the existence of aliens?" 4,000 people voted over 16,000 votes and that is the top question! As a Senior Pastor sitting around with your staff coming up with sermon series material I can almost guarantee you the guy who suggested preaching on aliens would be asked to leave the room. But that, I guess, is what people are wondering about today. So, I have to research it, take it seriously and do my best to preach an informed answer to it. Am I busy leading a staff, writing, having meetings with ministry leaders and people in our church every day? Yes. Do I have three daughters to raise and a wife to serve? Yes. But this fall I will be doing all that and reading about aliens. That's the job. The larger point being, we need to engage the questions, week in and week out, that people in our culture are asking versus only the questions we are asking. And we need to give those answers from the Bible. People in a post-Christian culture don't want to be soft sold. They don't want to be spun to. They want to know what the Bible says about a thing, even more than what you say about that thing. And that's good because that is our job anyway." -- Carey Nieuwhof