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Monday, April 14, 2008

Back into the fray...


It seems I've been forced back into blogging. Maybe 'forced' isn't the right word. Probably not. But here I am, possibly against my better judgement and definitely against my aching body's wishes to lie down and sleep!

I stopped blogging for varoius personal reasons. There have been one or two occasions over the past year which have tried to tempt my blogging juices to get flowing again, but obviously to no avail. I can't say I've really missed it at all. But nevertheless, here once more I am typing away on my brother's laptop. I didn't think I'd remember my password, but it appears I do.

Have you missed my random ramblings?! Maybe now's the appropriate time to finally introduce the subject - or, what I hope will be the subject if I can keep my focus - of this post...

The problem is that I often have most of what I perceive to be my most wise, insightful, helpful, downright clever thoughts when I'm driving to/from work and have a lot of time to think. But as soon as I leave my car, the sphere of brain power, clearly; I forget.

Something about pride is springing to mind.

Anyway, this blogpost will not be coherent (if you hadn't already guessed). I think I have more questions than anything else.

And I think that's a huge part of what provoked me to write this post in the first place.

So. Let's kick off proper like.

Yesterday was Sunday. Sunday means church. Off to church I went.

Our minister has recently retired. Enter visiting speaker. Enter Ceryn, asked to do the reading. Enter 1 Corinthians 15:12-28. (I have forgotten how to do links...maybe I'll come back and edit this later. If not, go to Or, even better, your actual real Bible.)

So, I read that passage and thought WOW this sermon's gonna be awesome.

I read the passage out in church and got excited by everything it said.

And then.

I don't want to make this overdramatic but really, why do people just not preach the passage anymore?

I read that passage, which to be honest was a passage I desperately needed to read and be reminded of (which, maybe, is why I was doubly that 'wrong'?) and then listened to a sermon that did not mention it at all. AT ALL. Well, apart from a few passing references to the fact that Christ is risen.

What, instead, the guy (who is lovely and a brother in Christ) said was...something about how Jesus - the risen Jesus - is available to us in all areas of our life, how we can experience Him in all areas of our life, how He meets us in different situations. He used examples from the gospels of different people Jesus appeared to and the different personalities they were/different situations they were in (again, though, without ever quoting any Bible verses).

Even typing this now I want to cry. My heart aches at the lack of Bible centred teaching in my church. Is it just my church?

The thing is, I couldn't pick out any heresies. There wasn't anything he said that wasn't true. That, no doubt, wasn't encouraging.

But is that the point? It's a good thing, I think. But is it the point?

I went to talk to him afterwards. I've wanted to do that to many a preacher since I've been home and never have. In fact, I've become content with it. I've succumbed to the mentality that it's just all we can expect, because I've become tired of fighting what I've perceived to be an easily lost battle. Because I've been fed up of being labeled the 'revolutionary' who is just too young and fresh out of uni to know how the church works in the real world.

Maybe that's an unfair caricature of how people have perceived me. But it's how I've felt.

But after a week at New Word Alive (praise God), and with Jess sat beside me, who agreed and made me realise I wasn't the only crazy young revolutionary, I just couldn't stand for it anymore.

That there's fighting talk, but then I was faced with the prospect of how exactly to approach a man who is well known and respected around these here parts, is old enough to be my grandad (and therefore automatically deserves my respect), and does, I'm convinced, love the Lord - how to approach such a man, my brother in Christ, whose 'profession' (for want of a much better word) is teaching the Bible...and tell him I'm concerned with how he preached. That, let's be blunt, I didn't really agree with what he did.

The answer, of course, is prayer, love, sensitivity and, I think, discreetness. I didn't want to approach him in front of everyone else - both for his benefit and that of my church, who I've come to realise I do love dearly. I didn't want to be responsible for making them stumble, I didn't want to be responsible for causing gossip ("Did you see Ceryn questionning the minister?")...and yet at the same time part of me wanted them to see, wanted them to realise that ministers are just human after all, and that we are 'allowed' to question. In love.

But, we waited till most people had left and asked the minister for some of his time.

We discussed exspository preaching, we discussed whether it's the only way to preach, we discussed why he didn't preach in that style - why he didn't mention the passage at all. I admitted I felt like he was disregarding the Bible - that we'd had the reading and therefore done what we should do, now let's just have a nice chat about life experience. I put forward my very serious concerns, which nearly made me cry right there and then, that the church is not rooted in Scripture, that it is not being taught from Scripture, that it is therefore not growing.

He asked me where I was rooted. Cue almost tears again. Because all I could think was 'nowhere'. I know a lot of that is my own fault because I have not been taking responsibility for personal Bible study. But. Neither do I feel fed in church. Neither do I feel that those who have supposedly been called to teach the Word of God are doing so. Neither do I feel that there is a high view of Scripture in these 'ere parts. And I'm scared it's not just in these 'ere parts.

I'm not saying every sermon should be a verse by verse analysis of a passage. But. Why go to the other extreme?

He suggested that if you preach the same style, or even message - the gospel - every week, people will get bored. God have mercy on us if that is true.

I left the conversation feeling that he was incredibly disillusioned, and I felt sorrow in my heart that he had been defensive, had probably felt under attack although that was never ever my intention, and had not really heard what I was trying to say. I felt sorrow that he has become so disillusioned, and I pray that God would restore to him something of a revolutionary spirit, which is so often just associated with youth - and has a negative connotation.

But should it? I don't know. Many of the quesitons I'm asking right now are just that - questions. I don't have the answers.

But I do feel that we need to be a bit revolutionary these days. We need to stand up for the Bible, certainly. I'm incredibly scared at how easily I've slipped into a lifestyle which does not have a high regard for Scripture; how easily I've succumbed to the pressure of being the only one who wanted to hear expository preaching, or at least the only one who thought it was possible.

And I'm more than saddened by the lack of grounding in Scripture. I'm more than saddened that people just accept what a guy in a pulpit says as a good sermon if it makes them feel good or encourages them even slightly. I'm more than saddened that people are used to - and want, in many cases - that style of preaching. That if he doesn't say anything heretical, then it's ok. (As he himself asked me to measure his sermon - by the bar of herecy.)

But is it ok?

I'm convinced it's not. Should I be otherwise?

I'm sad. I really, really am. I long that people would love the Bible more and long to hear it taught so that they may grow in and from it. I long that I'd not lose that longing again.

But neither do I want to sit in a sermon every Sunday and pull it to pieces. Some weeks ago I had a similar experience of listening to a sermon which did mention the passage once or twice this time, but didn't really have any structure and was difficult to understand (again, could very likely mainly be me). I spoke to someone afterwards who agreed with me, and someone else who thought it was a fantastic sermon. Because they'd picked up on one or two sentences which were true and right. The thought crossed my mind that I'd like a simple life like that, that I'd like to not have the background of CU and Relay training which has fed me gold Bible teaching and taught me to settle for nothing less.

But I don't really think that. I pointed out to said person that yes, said minister had said some earth shattering things (NB - those were the bits where he actually talked about the passage); but was that the point? Some truth? Some Bible?

Or should we be clamouring for nothing but the Bible?

The point is, some or no Bible sermons are comfortable, usually, aren't they? They don't tax your brain and quite often they may encourage you, but they don't challenge you.

And anyway, again, is that the point? Shouldn't we long for the Bible simply because it's the Bible?

Where have we gone so, so wrong? And how, oh how, can we begin to turn the tide?

Of course, the answer is on our knees.

I'm quite aware that I haven't really quoted/referred to any Bible in this post...

so, go and read the one passage I did quote in 1 Corinthians. Go and read how our faith is not futile, how we are not dead in our sins - because of Christ. Go and read about how amazing is the resurrection. Go and read some pure gold TRUTH. And then please pray with me, for the sake of our resurrected Christ, that this Truth would not be forgotten or neglected by anyone, least of all - LEAST OF ALL - by the Church.


Blogger The Thinker said...

Bless you for sharing your passion and frustration. Bless you for your love of the Word of God. Bless you for having the courage to follow up your feelings and share them with the preacher.
Bless you for being willing to question your motives and understanding ...
There is lots more to say but this may not be the place ... suffice for now the thought that Jesus taught about the Kingdom with parables for the people and paradoxes for the priests. Perhaps we need to tailor our preaching to those who are listening?

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Sarah Rees said...

CERYN! You are awesome and i am soooo gonna be praying with you! Yes im sure there are times for that kind of preaching, but all in all the bible is THE most important thing - it is God given and was given to us for a reason - to learn from... hence, we should teach from it! Wooooo! I love the way you always make me love the bible more! Love yooooou xxxxx

2:21 PM  
Blogger Timmy C said...

Cracking stuff, Ceryn. Keep the blog posts coming; honest & personal, they're so often the the most challenging! Tis a great encouragement to see you being convicted about preaching straight from the word of God, as I feel that so strongly like that at times - it moves me almost to tears and brews up what I can only guess is righteous anger at the disregard for God's inspired word.

I think your attitude with Jess in approaching the speaker was humble and inspired by Godly love & concern, not to mention the confidence he gave you both ;) well done!

Keep crying out for Godly teaching and a new pastor, Ceryn, God'll provide what your church needs - the living truth of grace through Jesus.

Now, come visit Reading! That, or do I have to ride my bike all the way to Wales?!

Take care, sis, you keep close to him :)

1:21 AM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

Glad you could remember your login. Thanks for the honest post, and raising such a helpful and real issue.

12:02 PM  

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