“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is‒his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12.2, NIV
Growing up in the Churches of Christ, our approach to Christianity seemed very cerebral. With scriptures, such as, “Come now, and let us reason together…” (Isa 1.18, KJV) and “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…” (2 Tim 2.15, KJV), we dared not neglect Bible study. And so we studied and studied. Sunday School classes and Wednesday Evening BIble Study, didactic sermons, scripture memorization, Bible bowls. It felt like we were the champs of Bible study.
Looking back, I have mixed thoughts. On the one hand, it was good that we knew our Bible’s. Ignorance is never bliss. I am amazed at how many Christians I meet who do not know their Bible. Not so among the Churches of Christ. Whether we were right or wrong, we knew what we believed and we could explain why from the scriptures
The downside to this was the fallacy of modern thought that had a very exaggerated view of human ingenuity. Restoring New Testament Christianity was something we did. Consequently, we seemed to believe we were the only ones going to heaven because, in part, we studied the Bible and did what it teaches.
Along the way, many began to see the ugliness of this downside and changes started to come about. Among these changes, worship and preaching began attending to the matters of our heart more and more…sometimes, it seems, at the expense of the rational. For the most part, I believe this has been a very healthy change, as scripture clearly portrays faith as something our emotions, our hearts, are deeply engaged in (just read the Psalms). But here comes the “but”…
To use an old cliché, we cannot throw the baby out with the bath water. Attending to heart matters does not mean we need to ignore the formation of our minds. If we are to understand and practice our faith, we must give attention to the mind.
Here is what I mean: As Christians, we rightfully confess that Jesus is God Incarnate. But we must also understand what it means for God to have become a human being, which is a theological question. Added to this, if our belief is to become practice, we must consider how taking the this doctrine seriously ought to shape the way we live as followers of God Incarnate. This requires thoughtful reflection that challenges us to think critically while endeavoring to awaken our imaginations to the possibilities for turning our confession into practice.
For this reason, I want to uphold the value of preaching thoughtfully. This does not mean that sermons are meant to be an exercise in academics nor does it mean that preaching is the only way to renew our minds. But it does mean that preaching plays a part in this and as such, I want my sermons to serve this goal of helping to renew our minds as Christians. That means I want my sermons to thoughtfully engage the Christian intellect as well as the heart, encouraging us all to think and act upon what can be if we take our faith seriously.
What are your thoughts?
See also these previous posts: