When Method Matches the Message
The pulpit was ablaze and one could almost feel the emotions being poured forth from the podium. Bible open, hand uplifted, the message was solid, the words were pure, and no man dared dispute him. When we attend conferences and revivalist meetings, often times we come away with more than a strengthened resolve and encouraged heart, we come away with a false sense of methodology. Here is how this works: The preacher preaches a strong line on the family, the importance of the Scriptures and loyalty to church. We see the size or we perceive that the size, of the ministry he is involved in to be large. One leaves believing that preacher is a family integrationist by the great importance he places on the family unit. He even says, "I am a husband first, a preacher last." That sounds so good, in fact we begin to repeat the mantra, (even though we may have not been living it out in our own lives.) That is the conundrum. When does our method match our message.
For what it is worth, I have committed to making sure the church I pastor does not fall into the trap of fluff. I know, one man's fluff is another man's ministry. What one preacher calls fluff, another calls "useful method". Whether it be preaching, music, bus ministries, awana clubs or basket weaving, we tend to spiritualize the acts and suggest that in and of themselves, they are fine, as long as the end justifies the means. "Hey, the fact of the matter is evident: we are trying to get people to come to church, right?" Wrong. We are trying to preach Christ and Him crucified. Those who come to church ought to be the ones who Christ has already called to himself. Only the Saved can worship in Spirit and Truth. Yes, the world can worship, no doubt. But they cannot enter into the holy of holies and worship the one true God. Without the Spirit of God, there is no true worship. Yet, we bend all we do in the church many times to accommodate those "without the Spirit." We put fluff in place to make them comfortable, and hope they stick around long enough to "get saved." The church no longer goes, but rather sends out invitations.
What am I wanting in Worship? I am wanting what God wants in worship. Not what I want. If I got what I wanted, and if I were pleased with what I had, without regard to God's direct desires, I am only worshipping my own self-interests.
It is a hard thing for a preacher who loves to preach, to know that he could amp up the music just a bit, change the format to be a bit more man centered, and provide a few more "community based" activities to draw in a crowd. "Hey, I have never stopped preaching the same message!" But when, dear preacher, does the "Method match the Message". If you say you love families, why do you divide them? If you say you love the Word, why does it get supplanted by the emotionalism of the music ministry? If you say that Preaching is the primary activity in a church, why then is the pulpit secondary, or even further down the list of what is promoted in the church? Because we know, the lost world will not say, "Hey, I hear that they have a great pulpit ministry down there at Emmanuel, lets go check it out!"
Dr. Bruce Bickel states in his book Light and Heat"With the increase of communication equipment and an emphasis on communication skills, Bible studies, small groups and sharing are increasingly sought as the route to revitalizing the church, while faith in the pulpit fades and grows dim. Consequently, more emphasis is being placed on methodology and less on the message." Again, When does the Method match the Message? The answer is clear, "When it brings people in, and not before."
So, preachers fill their pulpits each week and proclaim, "I will not compromise the message from this pulpit, you can boot me out, but I am standing on the word!" The congregation shouts "AMEN!, but don't you dare allow your message to affect the methodology we practice here." The message, some suppose belongs in the pulpit, along with the messenger, but the method belongs to us, the people, "Why, that is the whole reason we are here!" I know Emmanuel has not arrived, but I want to be on the correct train, heading in the right direction.
Let us have a strong defense of the Word of God, but let us be careful not to diminish that with a low esteem of the message. We show a disregard and low esteem of the message, when it does not translate from out of the pulpit, to the methods practiced in the church. Crowds or not.