by April Stier
Bread and candy are not the same thing. Bread is good for you. Candy is not. Bread provides lasting nourishment to the body. Candy only satisfies for a little while. Bread can be bland at times. Candy is always fun to eat. Unfortunately, one cannot live on candy alone.
This principle also can be applied to sermons. Based on my experience in the past few years, I have been fed many inspirational sermons that taste sweet and energize me for a while but quickly recede from my memory. I have found only one pastor that regularly feeds his congregation breadsermons that are teaching the Word of God verse by verse and applying its truths. However, I only hear this pastor when I come home for a weekend from college, and I find myself starving when I am at school for sound preaching from the pulpit. After talking with others about my predicament, I have realized that I am not the only one that feels this way.
I have visited several churches, and it is hard to find a pastor that has a biblical passage at the heart of his message instead of biblical passages supporting his message. And usually if a pastor speaks from a biblical passage, his sermon is more of a devotional thought than actual biblical exegesis and interpretation.
Biblical literacy is amazingly low within congregations, and I believe it is because they are not learning the word of God from the pulpit. I recently read a statement by R.C. Sproul from Knowing Scripture that identifies with my struggle: I have sat on church boards responsible for the preparation and examination of seminarians preparing for the pastoral ministry. The degree of biblical ignorance manifested by many of these students is appalling. Seminary curricula have not done much to alleviate the problem. Many churches are ordaining men every year who are virtually ignorant of the content of Scripture. To make matters worse, 40 percent of senior pastors in 2001 did not even have a seminary degree according to recent polls conducted by George Barna. No wonder biblical literacy is so low in todays congregationsthe people leading them do not have a strong foundation in the Word of God themselves.
The church is hungry, and many are not being fed. Barna states in his recent book Growing True Disciples, Few believers said that their church lacked programs, but most Christians complained that little is done to effectively motivate and facilitate their development as genuine, fervent followers of Christ. Our surveys among pastors showed that they dismissed such views as excuses and as inaccurate, but the bottom line remains unchanged: most Christians are simply not making progress in their personal spiritual development.
What is the solution to this predicament? Feed Gods sheep more bread and less candy. Those who have biblical training need to teach congregations Gods Word by explaining passages in the context of the culture in which it was written, prophecies that preceded the event, the original Hebrew or Greek in which it was written, and the significance of a certain phrase or act. Christians need to be fed messages that will increase their understanding of the Bible and how everything pieces together.
The Bible is an amazing book, but many never unlock its grandeur because they are not taught how. Gods Word is the bread of life, and it is essential that each Christian be grounded in it. Although inspiring messages are beneficial from time to time, a Christian cannot build a healthy, mature, reproductive spiritual body on candy.