I came across this quote recently on Facebook
The church, when it’s not seduced by consumerist spirituality, is in the business of cultivating ordinary Christians, people who are united to Christ by faith and are in it for the long haul, like people in a good marriage. It transforms people, not by giving them life-changing experiences but by repetition, continually telling the story of Christ so that people may hear and take hold of him by faith. For we do not just receive Christ by faith once at the beginning of our Christian lives and then go on to do the real work of transformation through our good works. We keep needing Christ the way hungry people need bread, and we keep receiving him whenever we hear the gospel preached and believe it. So what transforms us over the long haul is not one or two great life-changing sermons (although these can be helpful from time to time) but the repeated teaching and preaching of Christ, Sunday after Sunday, so that we never cease receiving him into our hearts. -Phillip Cary, Good News for Anxious Christians
One comment to this was worth noting
So I have a serious question – if I am to take literally what this writer says, I have one of two pictures that I know are not just my imagination; the first picture is the literal Sunday after Sunday presentation of the good news message. I have met many Christian refugees over the years and I seriously mean many, who simply could not endure their church after years and years of hearing essentially the same gospel message Sunday after Sunday. And while I certainly understand personal responsibility of the Christian to study the Word, the obvious and stark reality of that is that it rarely happens to any significant degree. And since the Pastor’s primary duty I believe is proclamation of the Word meaning the whole counsel of God’s Word meaning 66 books of the Bible you either get what I have already described week after week with Christians drying on the vine or you get a sound bite gospel message quickly and shabbily tacked on at the end of each message doing the wonder of the good news a disservice.
On the road to Emmaus when Jesus wanted his disciples to know who he was The text said something rather profound:
“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in ALL the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27 NASB) Would it be totally unfair to assert that what the writer “seems” to be advocating may be part and parcel of the profound ignorance of the Scriptures in the church at large? Or am I pushing what he means too far?
I think he’s on to something and why I can’t beat the drum loud enough about Christ-centered preaching. Sadly, it took a long time and a lot of exposure to all kinds of sermons before I actually realized what makes a sermon, Christ-centered. Just because you mention Jesus, does not mean he is at the center of the message. I’ve sat under all kinds of preaching. The topical sermon with made-up theology based on some innovative “spiritual” insight and cherry-picked, out-of-context verses.
Then there is the “story” kind of preaching where going through a book of the Bible was taking a journey with the author. The people as principle approach (which I’ve now dubbed narcegesis), like using David as an example of how you fight the giants in your life. I’ve sat under good expositional preaching, which treats the passage carefully according to its context and place in the redemptive narrative but may not necessarily be Christ-centered. Hint: if it can be taught outside of a Christian context, it’s sub-Christian.
So preaching the gospel in corporate gatherings is not a 2 sentence tag-line at the end of a 30 minute speech in which people are inspired to be like biblical character X. Such preaching is vapid and undermines the central theme of Scripture, which is what God did through his Son and our need for him. In other words, preaching the gospel on Sundays is more than just repeatedly saying Jesus died for your sins but showing the need for his work and the how of God’s work in relation to the text. It starts with the premise that all is about Christ, from the beginning. Then whatever text is preached demonstrates how that character, story or NT instruction relates to God’s work through his Son even in the OT. But sadly, I think the commenter rightfully points out that such preaching takes training and a foundational understanding of the redemptive story comprising all 66 books.