I’m growing evermore concerned about the debased preaching in many American churches. Here’s how it goes, preachers are talking about how sin “pisses off” God or that some people think Jesus “dressed like a fairy,” or that Jesus “wasn’t a wuss.” I’ve even heard one well-known pastor tell a story about dismissing a young man’s theological questions because he was “a loser that lived at home with his mom.” In addition, more and more preachers/church planters/lead pastors – whatever you want to call us – are spending a good percentage of sermon time yelling at their congregations. Trust me, I understand the desire to shake the church from it’s missional malaise, but I don’t think raising the volume is going to work. Churches are dying, not deaf. I suppose all the yelling is designed to communicate passion, but it so often comes across as anger.
I know what these guys (and they are mostly guys) are attempting to get at. They simultaneously want to wake a sleeping church, make her seem cool, and ostensibly help men see a Jesus they can relate to. But I have to question whether or not they need to be Sam Kinison to do it. I find it odd that some feel the need to make Jesus seem cooler or manlier than the versions they grew up with. Not because Jesus is not cool or manly, but rather because in their effort to shape Jesus into their own image, they make the same mistake their forerunners did by simply not allowing Jesus to be Jesus.
Why are we so afraid of dealing with Jesus on his own terms?
What’s more, in shouting at the congregation and using an 8th graders vocabulary, we undo much of what Jesus taught about speech and speech acts and ethics. Our Lord taught that the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart. I would hate the idea that my heart would conceive of making sure people knew that Jesus wasn’t a “fairy,” or that anyone else was. It just wouldn’t occur to me as a theological category. Homo-ology, I guess.
In all our consternation to ensure the world knows Jesus wasn’t effeminate, what do we say about boys and men who are or the women who date and marry them?
I love sports, wear a goatee, enjoy the occasional cigar, love explosions in movies and other typical “guy” things, but I think someone can be like Jesus even if they don’t. I’m deeply concerned about the passivity of men and the lack of courage we generally display as a gender, but a faux, painted-chest version isn’t going to help us break out of it.
What bothers me, perhaps, is that it’s all so childish. All the yelling and name-calling seems like something we all should have learned to quit doing when we stopped pulling girl’s hair. But maybe some of us haven’t learned to stop pulling? Jesus can be Lord, King and Conqueror, without me having to preach that, “One day Jesus is coming back to kick-ass and take names.” Doesn’t he already know our names? Shouldn’t our words about God be the very best words we know rather than us playing preacher-shock-jock or going for the quick and easy laugh? If preaching – this noble, difficult and life-altering task that I’ve devoted my life to – is going to turn into Saturday Night Live, I’d just rather stay up late Saturday than arise early on Sunday.
Are you seeing angry preaching where you are? How does this kind of language affect our presentation of the gospel?