A question I’ve begun exploring this evening is: What is Christ-Centered Preaching? Although I don’t preach myself, I do have an interest in Christian communication. So as I’ve been exploring how to write in a more Christ-centred way I’ve become more curious about the public speaking equivalent.
One book which drew my attention was “Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chappell”. Not having read the book before I checked out a few books reviews to see if I’d like to actually buy it. But I think the answer is no given comments from reviewers like this:
“Chappell argues that when Christian sermons offer mere moral instruction, they “present a faith indistinguishable from that of morally conscientious Muslims, Unitarians, Buddhists, or Hindus” (p. 294). To be distinctively Christian, says Chappell, a sermon must have a redemptive focus, meaning it must emphasize the sufficiency of Jesus Christ for both justification and sanctification. Appended material addresses a number of practical matters, such as how a preacher should dress, pulpit demeanor, messages for weddings and funerals, and recommended resources for a pastor’s library. “ (www.sharperiron.org)
Sorry, but this doesn’t sound like Christ-centered preaching to me. Cross-centered yes, but Christ-centered no. Who Jesus was, and is, and is to come cannot be reduced to one moment in history, no matter how significance that moment in history was. Christ was a person. For preaching to be truly Christ-centered it must take its bearings from Christ in a much more holistic way.
Indeed, to suggest Christ-centeredness can be reduced to atonement theology further suggests that ethics has nothing to do with Christ-Centeredness, which I don’t buy at all. So I’m going to think about this some more and look for more books. But while I do I am interested in your thoughts. What do you recognize as Christ-centered preaching?
2 thoughts on “Christ-Centered Preaching”
Before I leave this comment I want to say that I am Lutheran, which follows a decidedly cross-centered mode of preaching. I say this to be clear where my bias lies, in terms of theology.
As I understand it (and to be clear, I very easily may not be articulating an “official” Lutheran position) ‘Christ-centered’ preaching IS ‘cross-centered’, with the understanding that Jesus’ life and teaching all point towards and leads to his death and ressurection. The central message is of God’s love and forgiveness of His enemies (me, you and everyone) soley because He wanted to forgive, not because of any inherent ability of ours to warrant forgiveness.
Therefore, our “good works” (the ‘mere moral instruction’) must always be viewed as a response to this forgiveness. The good we do is neither a way to earn forgiveness nor a way to “pay God back” or justify the fact that we have been forgiven. Conversely (and controversely, depending on how bodly this is stated and how far it is pushed) our lack of “good works” can not remove this forgiveness we have recieved; it only increases the amount of forgiveness.
The Lutheran position denies a view that takes living out Jesus’ teaching as being a prerequisite for “being Christian” or receiving forgiveness. Rather, the love of ones enemies, forgiveness, disregard of social and econimic status (in not favoring those with power and money), ect. (essentially, things that make up the life of Jesus) come as a response to this forgiveness.
We don’t live good lives because we think they will earn us anything (because anything that could have been earned has already been given to us) but because it is the right thing to do. We feed the poor, love our enemies and forgive those who harm us because we actually care about these people– not because we fear an angry God or because we think it earns us a place in heaven.
There is also something that I wont be able to summarize or explain very well (forgive me) about the free forgiveness we recieve being the key to allow us to care about everyone. (We love because he first loved us 1 John 4:19) Essentially taking penal substitution atonement theology and mixing it in with a bit of Christus Victor antonement theology. And all of this is also underlined by the recognition that being a Christian does not make you perfect, that we fail to live up to these standards no matter how hard we try and that ultimately our only real hope is in the free forgiveness we have recieved from God through Jesus.
Again, as I understand it only.
Well said Emily!