Church should be high on fun, relevance and low on doctrine; then there’s Hebrews 5

4 Nov

Many churches consider expository preaching (preaching systematically through whole books of the bible) and/or doctrinal preaching to be too boring, too irrelevant, too divisive, too unappealing for modern men.  Believers and unbelievers alike, they reason, just don’t have the interest or patience for it.  Better to let preachers pick topics themselves so the bible (if it is used much) can be picked through, pulling out only  a verse here and there that folks today might find helpful in their worldly pursuits, interesting, entertaining, and so forth.  But sermons that spend careful time wrestling with biblical doctrine and theology, no matter how theo-centric they may be, just do not work anymore.  Too much bible, too much doctrine, makes Jack tune out after all.  Right?

The author of Hebrews knew just such a sentiment well.  He spends the first four chapters presenting us with the bible’s most developed and highest degree of Christology.  Drawing from revelation from OT prophets and new revelation from Christ and His apostles, we are told of Christ’s supremacy, deity, sufficiency.  We are told of his activity, his revelation, his mission.  We are told of his rule, his servant-hood, his intercession.  We are told of his place in history, his relationship to Moses, Melchizedek, the angels, men, the Father, the High Priest.

But suddenly the author takes a break from this theological steak dinner to comment on human nature.  He knows that this kind of study, this kind of theological analysis, this mysterious revelation from God, is likely to fascinate very few worldly believers, walking more by the flesh than by the Spirit.  He says of all this Christology (chapter 5),

11 About this we have much [more] to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

So what does the author lament?  It pains him, as it does a tender-hearted pastor, that his flock will not be able or willing to handle serious theological truth, and they must receive, indeed they prefer, milk to solid food.  They prefer to remain easily satisfied and entertained babes than fully mature adults.  I wonder what the author Hebrews would say to churches that, with good intentions no doubt, seek to organize church around the spiritually simple-minded?  A church that is prone to preaching lofty spiritually-minded sermons is seen by many to be a great turnoff.  People in a modern materialistic world can’t be spiritual-minded, but are given to material concerns almost exclusively, so church must follow suit if it wants to win friends and influence people.  Church, sermons, lessons, had better be this-worldly, of practical use, not boring by any means.  High lofty mysterious other-worldly truths just can’t be part of modern man’s diet.  But it seems rather clear, does it not, that the author of Hebrews would never celebrate a church that organizes itself this way, around the wants of immature carnal minded Christians, let alone the unchurched.

Now we might just say, well things change.  Different cultures you know.  But the author of Hebrews was writing about something far more ominous than fluff sermon topics.  He was writing about how to avoid apostasy.

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