Friday, June 13, 2008

"Pastor, I need more 'meat' from the Word."

Okay, since it's been a while since my last "serious" post, I decided I was due for another. And to break the drought, I've decided to post a little bit on a pet peeve of mine.

Over the course of my seven years as a pastor, I've been told several times by someone who should know better that what they really need to grow in their spiritual life is "more meat" from my sermons and/or teaching. I'm never quite sure how to respond to this, because I'm not quite sure what they mean. Do they mean that I should translate more Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic words directly and give more of a flavor of the underlying text of our English translations? Do they mean I should give them a full bore, highly intellectual presentation of the text in a way that dazzles through a combination of complex structure, polysyllabic vocabulary, and a minimum of illustrations? Perhaps they mean that I should spend more time on some of the complex theological issues, like sovereignty/freedom, the Trinity, or the degree of identity between our current physical body and our new spiritual body. Or maybe they mean something else altogether.

Regardless, I am convinced of a few things:
  1. The Scriptures are meant to be understood and for that reason are not overly complicated or hard to understand. Thus, past a certain level of Christian experience and biblical teaching, there isn't some sort of mystical "higher" or "deeper" teaching to attain.
  2. What is complicated and hard about Christianity isn't the informational aspects, but the transformational aspects. That is, what the Bible says isn't hard to understand; it is doing what the Bible says that is difficult. In my view, a Christian has attained true understanding of the "deep truths of the faith" when he/she is able to successfully do what the Bible commands in all of the major areas of his/her life.
  3. This is not to say that it isn't important to engage our intellects. Far from it, in fact. Intellectual knowledge and inquiry is an important aspect of forming the theological grid that we use to shape our lives. But it is to make clear that the formation of said grid isn't the end, but only the means. We're not to work hard at becoming smarter sinners, but to use what we know to become sanctified saints.


The Rosetto's said...

i think they want you to serve a meal during your sermon. that would be awesome.

seriously, i find it interesting when people blame their pastor, when the real problem is within themselves.

Garden Girl said...

Hmmmmm, I understand what they could be saying. And I don't think it should be a pet peeve of yours.

So many times, the Scriptures are glossed over. A good story is told during the sermon and you leave feeling great. Now, I don't think leaving feeling great is necessarily a bad thing but perhaps all that was heard was "fluff" Maybe the pastor did not explain the full impact of the passage or simply chose to focus on the "sunny" side. Many churches do not confront their congregation with the hard truth of how we are supposed to live "Be holy as I am Holy" They do not delve deeper into the Word of God but simply teach the elemental truths (which are not bad!). Paul talks of wishing to speak of deeper things but as it was, the people were not ready for it... Well, perhaps some people are ready for it.

Now, I am not saying you are that kind of pastor but when thinking of hearing "meaty" sermons - that's what I think of. Oh, and throwing in a little Hebrew - Greek is not a bad thing either ;)

The fact remains though, if you aren't getting meat during a sermon and you are longing for it - you need to be feeding yourself (and you should be feeding yourself even if you are getting full-on 'meaty' sermons!).