Wednesday, March 05, 2008



The theme from this year’s National Resurgence Conference was Text & Context. If you had asked me what this meant before I went to the conference, my response would have gone something like this:
“What does it mean? Who cares? John Piper is going to be there!” In reality, the theme was powerfully addressed by each of the speakers and spoke to many things that this generation of preachers needs to hear.
Here’s the short version of what Text & Context is all about. “Context” is a reference to where you minister and to whom you preach. In a broad sense, you might say that today’s “context” is a post-modernistic one. It is a generation that has been labeled as having a higher value for spirituality (although not necessarily biblical Christianity), a value for authenticity, and, ironically, irreverence for absolute truth. So, today, many preachers are becoming aware of this audience they preach to, appreciating the words of the preacher and their messages, but not becoming obedient to Scripture, because it is only a guide, not the absolute, infallible Word of God. This is a generalization, but it’s becoming all the more evident as preachers water down their messages to reach this audience.
In a more specific sense, context might be the actual city or neighborhood or culture in which you minister. For Mars Hill Church, for instance, these are 18 to 30 year-old men in the Seattle area. This is due to the fact that men who fall into this demographic are statistically least likely to attend church. This is the “context” in which Mark Driscoll planted his church. Therefore, he speaks directly to that context quite often.
“Text” is more important than context however. The “Text” is Scripture. This point was consistently addressed during our time at Mars Hill. Many emergent churches today have a heart for their respective “contexts” (boy I’m getting tired of putting that in quotes – I’m quitting now). These churches love their cities, their cultures, and their people and want to meet their needs; especially their felt needs.
The problem we sometimes see in these churches is that they sacrifice, or obscure The Text of Scripture out of the perception that it fails to minister to their context. This is what each of the speakers railed against, each in their own way. The general premise to which we consistently returned was the idea that, in order to truly love and serve our Context, we must magnify, trust, and elevate Scripture as God’s Word. Only when all of our service, all of our teaching, all of our love are proclaimed and lived out in accordance with the Bible are we truly loving, serving, and reaching our communities.
For instance, if we don’t want people to go to Hell - then it’s not loving when we avoid preaching about it. If we want people to know God, but don’t explain that Christ is the ONLY way to know God, then we haven’t loved the culture; the people in our context.
The way Matt Chandler talks about this has stuck with me the most. This is probably due to the fact that it’s easier to remember something that’s funny than intellectually weighty. In any case, Chandler talked about how, in ministry and preaching we must not worry so much about drawing a crowd, but rather being obedient to God’s Word because, God’s Word is what The Spirit uses to save souls.
He basically articulated it this way: It’s a miracle that anyone got saved in the 80’s. All the church did was sing dopey songs like, “I got the joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart to stay,” during which we would have people on stage spelling out the word JOY with their bodies. We would also show movies about the rapture and how it was a sin to listen to Journey and Boston. Most of our concerts looked like really bad SNL skits too. We can’t believe that those things saved anybody. It’s a miracle of God.
This was a summation, in my own words, of what Chandler said. I agree with him – because I think Chandler simply agrees with Paul.
II Corinthians 4:6,

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

If we don’t believe this verse – if we don’t believe that people get saved because God and God alone speaks the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, into their heart – then we stand in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday pretending to be Jesus. I can think of no greater call for today’s preachers than to simply be obedient to God’s Spirit and God’s Word.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I told you-that you would come around to agreeing with me that II Corinthians chapters 2-4 is probably the most important passage on preaching the gospel.