Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Christocentric (Christ-Centered) Preaching

There's an old saying "All roads lead to Rome". Well, that is true with the Bible and Jesus Christ. In the Bible, ALL texts lead to Christ. ALL verses point to Christ. There is no magical formula or secret equation about this. All of the Old Testament points to Christ. This is not a mere conjecture on my part. Jesus himself makes this claim. (Luke 24:27,44). Obviously the Four Gospels are about Christ. If you read through the Pauline epistles, the general epistles and pastoral epistles, essentially all the books of the New Testament, you will also notice the over- arching theme is Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:13-20 are just a few verses to belabor my point. Furthermore, The Bible says nothing good about man (Rom. 3:10-18). Therefore, the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be preached as the climax in every sermon. The aim of every sermon should be to make Jesus Christ visible. Some may ask what is the difference between preaching and teaching? Jokingly, someone said the difference is 'volume'! but we know that isnt the correct answer! The goal of teaching is to transfer information. In a sermon, the goal is to get people to worship and to exalt Christ. We must remember that a sermon is also a major part of worship. It is terrible to think that music is the only or primary form of worship.

In expositional preaching, we need to ask a few questions. Is it sound?(in truth) Is it clear? is Christ the climax? Or was Christ just added or missing? Is there an application? Is Jesus the solution to the people's problem or were they told to just try harder? The existential aspect: Is there a sense of God in the sermon? What's the essential metaphor? Was it gripping to get past the intellectual? Was Jesus made visible or only talked about? Lets quickly define some other forms of preaching before we discuss some more on Christocentric (Christ-centered) Preaching.

Doctrinal Preaching focuses too much on the intellect and not on the heart. It focuses too much on the expounding and on the aspects. Essentially, it does not lead hearers to worship.

Practical Preaching puts all the emphasis on application. It hits the will rather than the heart or intellect. It doesn't challenge the mind and it doesn't incorporate hearers to worship on the spot. This type is huge in American churches today. The sermons tell us "How to raise your family", "How to be a good spouse", "How to raise your kids", etc and they are all "How to's"... There is very little exposition of the text and very little theology.

Narrative Preaching- It is telling stories to get right to the heart. It goes right to the emotions. Its not theological. Its a devotional approach that goes for the emotions. It may feel like worship but it is not true worship. We must not forget that we are to worship in Spirit and in Truth.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.(John 4:24)

A Christocentric model of preaching means that Christ is the focus. Its only as you show how the text reveals Christ that you change peoples lives. Revealing Christ is where you move from lecture to worship. It keeps you from preaching Doctrinal, Practical, or Narrative.

A good and easy illustration would be David and Goliath:

Practical Preaching: David shows how we are to face and stand against the "big giants" in our lives. We need to trust in God like David. There's nothing morally wrong with this application, but there is nothing mentioned about Christ. We can virtually take any secular story and give similar life applications. This sermon does not exalt Christ nor lead people to Christ.

Christocentric Preaching: David was a Christ type where he risked his life to face Goliath. If David wins the battle, Israel wins. If David loses the battle, Israel loses. He had victory over the giant and imputed his victory to the nation of Israel. David points to a greater descendant, CHRIST. The nation of Israel didn't have to do anything to earn the victory. David defeated the enemy all by himself for the nation and the nation was credited Davids victory.
Therefore, the Christocentric approach says the text of David and Goliath is about Christ, and the Practical approach says this is about you! The Christocentric approach shows what Christ has accomplished and points out that the message of the Bible is Christ. The other approach shows that the texts of the Bible is about you and what you need to do.

Finally, the Bible is not just a written text where we just read it and try to understand it. It is the revelation and voice of the living God. You must approach it humbly and must read it to hear what God has to say to you. Therefore, we preach as instruments, as mouthpieces for God.

2 Corinthians 4:5 (KJV)
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (KJV)
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

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