Sunday night made me realize why exegetical preaching is so important.
It had been a strange night. My sermon was prepared, but I was nervous about it. It's amazing how bold you can be in the study, preparing a talk, and how much that can contrast with the feelings of nervousness that hit you before preaching. It was made worse by the fact that there was a record number of people there - all the seats were taken. For some reason, we had a good 30 visitors turn up. How I would have loved to have spoken on love or patience or forgiveness. Instead, I was speaking on Genesis 19: homosexuality, gang rape, incest, and the wholesale destruction of a city!
As the passage was read out the silence was incredible. Parents of small children looked nervous, young teens grinning amongst themselves. I felt the anticipation as I stood up to preach. We looked at how God hates sin, how he judges it, and how homosexuality was more than a lifestyle choice - it was offensive to our creator God and will come under his judgement like all sin. We also looked at the need to flee sin rather than allow ourselves to be enticed by it.
At the conclusion of the service I got around chatting to the visitors, expecting at least a couple to have been annoyed by the blatant treatment of homosexuality (I had had a very aggressive woman confront me a couple of weeks before on the fact that I had called Sarai a sinner). The feedback, however, was the opposite. People were genuinely appreciative that the passage had been tackled boldly and without apology. A couple of local ladies had turned up and spent the next half hour looking at the passage and talking about it. They had been around Churches for many years, but had never heard a passage preached from like that before. "It was like a book review", one of them said.
I left Sunday night with both negative and positive thoughts. One part of me was sad and frustrated that these issues aren't often dealt with in Churches. The reason? I believe it has a lot to do with the trend of topical teaching today. To be honest, there's no way that the themes of Genesis 19 would be on the top of my list of topics to cover in Church. Exegetical preaching forces us to deal with the issues God wants us to deal with, rather than our own hobby horses. I remember a discussion with someone very close to me on the role of men and women in the Church a few years ago. I suggested we look at the Bible on the issue, and this particular person told me he didn't know that the Bible even dealt with it. I was left with a few questions on the thoroughness of his devotional life and reading at the time, but also concerned that after a good 40 odd years of sitting in Church, he hadn't heard it explained from up front!
On the positive side, I was greatly encouraged by the work of God's Spirit within us, aligning our thinking with that of the Father. Regardless of the Church background of our visitors, people were more than happy to agree wholeheartedly with God's view on life, rather than wanting to blur the lines between us and our culture.
The reason I will continue to preach exegetically is simply because I don't trust myself. I am a sinful man, and find myself saying the things people want to hear sometimes. Exegetical preaching makes God the one who sets the agenda, our role is to do our best to discern and speak his mind on it. I would love to see more Churches embrace exegetical teaching on the Coffs Coast, because I firmly believe it would result in a massive internal strengthening of the Christians who attend them.