Monday, August 28, 2006
Passionate Peacockery versus Christ-Centered Preaching
Over the past decade since I graduated from Hyles Anderson College in 1995, my philosophy of ministry has undergone a complete transformation--some may even refer to it as an Extreme Fundamental Makeover! Many of the "doctrines" that were preached ad nauseum as "fundamentals of the faith" during my upbringing I have since found out were nothing more than emotional dynamite to excite a raucous Sunday evening congregation. Jack Hyles taught that preaching more often than not needed to be shouting and that all good and effective sermons were topical in nature. Jack Hyles decried the expository sermon as nothing more than a lecture. They were boring, ineffective, unbiblical and "dry/dead as last year's Christmas tree"! I bought into this foolishness as a young lad and it took some gracious de-programming by the LORD to place me back on the right path. One of the areas in my own system of beliefs where the greatest change has taken place is in this matter of preaching--what is the difference between a "Man-Centered" sermon and a "Christ-Centered" sermon? Over the past 10 years my thinking on this topic has been completely transformed.
Two Sunday evenings ago I had the chance to watch about 20 minutes of the live video feed from First Baptist Church of Hammond. What I saw was nothing new--only the cast of characters has changed. I have many memories of Jack Hyles prancing around on stage and commanding the attention of thousands with a seemingly endless stream of comical personal illustrations. What I saw this past Sunday evening was nothing short of Passionate Peacockery. Again I wish that I had thought of this keen image--I cannot lie. This is an analogy that my brother Josh relayed to me just before he left FBCH. The cobwebs had been removed and he called me one night and with all due respect mentioned that Pastor Schaap strutted around on stage like a peacock in full bloom! As we have reflected on our years in Hammond this analogy has stuck and for good reason--I highly recommend that those of you who doubt our analysis check out the FBCH website during one of their scheduled services.
One of the things we all need to keep in mind is that the First Baptist Church of Hammond is a college church--it was when I was growing up there and it is even more so today. The college is the machine that keeps everything clipping along. These dear college folks have a hunger for what they believe to be "red hot preaching". I believe that this is one of the reasons that the typical service at FBCH is more like a college chapel service or pep rally. (I realize that FBCH became the World's Largest Sunday School without HAC, but at the present time FBCH is made up almost exclusively of people who came to Hammond in order to train for the full-time ministry at HAC. Countless former college students and graduates put down their roots for decades in Hammond and they crave the kind of preaching that we are going to look at today).
Those in Hammond will try to tell you that they are just teeming with new and excited "middle class" converts. They will try to convince you that they have new Sunday School classes that have pulled in literally hundreds yea thousands of new middle class couples who are being assimilated into the church family on a regular basis--DO NOT BELIEVE IT. For the most part there has simply been a reshuffling of the deck to populate these new classes. I digress.
In a previous post Josh mentioned the penchant that those at FBCH and HAC have for "red hot preaching". I would like to build upon that first post concerning this topic and provide a link for your investigation. Many of you have never experienced the kind of IFBxdom that Josh and I were raised in--here is your chance to learn a little more about these folks and what the focus of their ministry truly is.
I want to direct you all to a couple of gems that I have had the chance to listen to over the past couple of weeks. The first sermon is titled, "Mistakes of the Modern Ministry", and has some very interesting items missing from its content--here is the link to listen to it for yourself so you know that I am not just making this stuff up.
You will notice that among other things, Pastor Schaap lays down the "fundamentals" as he sees them of the "old-time religion." His list includes the heresy of King James Onlyism, emphasis on external "standards", traditional music, and soulwinning! He would classify all of these as "non-negotiables". He goes on to make the claim that a non-soulwinner is worse in the eyes of God than a gambler or an adulterer--simply unbelievable! These are statements that I remember Jack Hyles making, but I had never heard Pastor Schaap mention these things until this sermon. Pastor Schaap goes on to drive the point home that the Gideons and those who print Bibles and put them in the hands of the lost are not doing very much good--he reasons that those Bibles are in hotel rooms and people are still going into these rooms and committing all sorts of sexual sins and drinking liquor from the mini-bar--in Schaap's opinion a fiery soulwinner is much more powerful and vital to ministry than 100,000 copies of the Word of God!
Does anyone see the continual elevation of man and downplaying of the Eternal Word here? Certainly we all ought to be better witnesses than we are, but these careless statements give more proof that Pastor Schaap truly is by his own admission, "winging it" every week at FBCH.
What we want everyone to explore is the content, style, and method of preaching that these folks in the clutches of IFBxdom employ. I have no problem with a preacher raising his voice or getting excited about a truth--the problem is that when the typical IFBXer preaches, he is floating around in an exegetical vacuum and proud of it! Notice the lack of true Biblical exegesis and the abundance of rank eisegesis. Pastor Schaap mentions some things that are very true about the state of the modern church--I do not disagree with every point that he makes--our point is that this is nothing more than a pep rally of sorts to stir up the college kids. It is man-centered to the very core and the proof is to just simply watch the next video feed from FBCH--you will find Passionate Peacockery and not a shred of Biblical and Christocentric exegesis.
What else did you take away from this sermon? Are we just being too hard on FBCH because of our history there? Does anyone else notice the peacockery or are we simply seeing what we want to see? Sometimes I have to rewind some of the statements just to be sure I am hearing them correctly--unfortunately all my fears are confirmed upon further review. Next time we will look at another sermon that will have all God-fearing believers in tears--either of laughter or of sincere sorrow. Stay tuned...