Brute Force Relevance in Preaching

hammernailJust because something is true does not mean that it is of utmost importance. An idea must be both “true” and “relevant to the present time” to be worthy of our intense consideration.

This idea of relevance is an interesting one. Some people ignore it altogether and others place an intense amount of effort into showing the relevance of an idea or teaching. I am about to start a series that looks at four postures that preachers have taken to relevance and the demonstration of it.

The first way that we have demonstrated relevance is through “Brute Force.” Here is where we end up saying, “You better believe it or else!” The “or else part” could be “you will go to hell” or “you will be confused” or “you will be deceived.” Another softer approach is “you don’t really love Jesus unless you believe it.” Examples abound of this kind of preaching. I listened to the Bible Answer Man defending the trinity. He argued that if you don’t believe in the trinity then you are not a Christian. Here the argument is basically you must believe this or you are not in right relation with God and ultimately are lost. There was no attempt to demonstrate how the doctrine makes any difference in our living, just a statement “You Must Believe it or else!”

This kind of relevance, however, will not stand up in the real world. When I am dealing with real issues in my own life, these kinds of approaches to relevance makes me put this doctrine on the back burner. Even if I agree with the doctrine, I can’t use it, I can only “believe” it. I have to go to something else when I am hurting. I have to go to something else when I am in need of something.

Some think that most doctrines are only relevant in this perspective, however it is my contention that it is not that the doctrines are only relevant through brute force, it is that we have not thought through the practical ramifications of our doctrines.

I am not saying that there is never a place or time for the “Brute Force” method of relevance, but I think that it is used way too much and if not supplemented with something else turns “truth” into “irrelevant truth.”

Comments

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Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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One comment on “Brute Force Relevance in Preaching
  1. Roger B. Abuloc says:

    I also disagree using “brute force” as to relevance in making people or hearers of our message accept it with “fear.” We are free thinkers and as such we are given the free will to choose of what we are to believe in. The message using “brute force” may intimidate a new believer in Christ, as he cannot yet comprehend the spiritual meaning of it.

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