Listening to the Questions

I attended a preaching workshop at First Baptist Church here in Lawrence yesterday. The kind American Baptist folks let me hang out with them and learn from them for awhile. (Thanks!)

Something one of the presenters, Matt Sturtevant, asked has particularly stuck in my head: As preachers, are we answering the questions our people are asking?

Is it possible the people in the congregation don’t actually care that the Greek verb is in transitive form? That the folks listening to us preach do not loose sleep debating the merits of substitutionary vs. Chritus Victor theories of atonement? Maybe, as hard as it is for me to fathom, they don’t even care about parallel structure in the psalms.

Are we preachers answering the questions our people are asking?

It strikes me that Jesus was particularly adept at answering the questions that the people were asking. Like in this coming Sunday’s reading from John 3. “How can someone be born when they are old?” “How can this be?”

Jesus listens to Nicodemus and responds to the questions that he asks–though surely not in the way Nicodemus expected.

During the wedding at Cana, the question was: Where is the wine? So Jesus answered.

The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus told of the Good Samaritan.

The rich young ruler wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. So Jesus told him.

If we want to have an effective preaching ministry–and more importantly, if we want to have a Christ-like preaching ministry–we pastors must become more adept at addressing the questions people are actually asking. Which, of course, means we’ll have to shut up and listen for awhile. God help us.

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