I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I've never been called "hip" or "trendy." But apparently I am. And so is Riverview Baptist Church. According to a recent Gallup survey, preaching that is based on the Bible is the hottest trend in American churches right now. That is, it has apparently become popular for preachers to base their sermons on the Bible, and people are responding to it by flocking to churches with biblical preaching.
At Riverview we are committed to preaching and teaching the Bible for the simple reason that is the only and best thing worth preaching and teaching. We believe that the Bible is God's word - it is a direct message from God to us (just let that sink in for a minute), and that it is completely true in all its parts and in everything that it says. It is inspired by God himself through human authors, and it is sufficient in all areas it addresses (in other words, it is enough to give us all the direction, guidance, and wisdom in life that we will need). Put simply, we at Riverview hold the Bible in high regard. And since we do, we find that it is the best and most worthy object of our time and attention. All other things that we might speak about and study pale in comparison to the Bible.
If the Bible is indeed all of these things - and it is - then it only makes sense that we would devote ourselves to it. To this extent, the fact that biblical preaching is a current trend is a good thing. The more people hear the word of God preached faithfully, the better. But trends aren't necessarily all good. In fact, following the trends of the day has been, in my opinion, the thorn in the church's side for several decades now.
What does it say about the spiritual health of the American Church that biblical preaching is trending? Nothing good, as far as I can tell. After all, trends come and go. For decades many American churches have put the Bible on the shelf in favor of a flashy stage production, catchy music, a hip coffee bar, or even having people dressed up as Disney characters during services. Basically, many churches have attempted to draw people to their churches with anything but the Bible - whatever appeals to the masses is what they do to draw people in. And now that the Bible has become what the people want, it is quite possible that churches will jump on board that trend for as long as it lasts, or until people get bored with the Bible and want to be entertained again. To this extent, I hope that many preachers who simply follow trends won't follow this one. We don't need preachers going to the Bible because they want to attract people. Instead, we need preachers who will go to the Bible because it is the authoritative word of God, and it is the only and best thing that demands our attention.
Many churches have adapted their ecclesiology and ministry philosophy for the purpose of achieving a certain result. In other words, what do we have to do fill the pews? What do we have to do to bring up our numbers? But this is a pragmatic and unbiblical way of determining how we should conduct our churches. Instead, our question should be: what would God have us do? Our focus should be obedience, not outcomes or results. If God says to preach the Bible in season and out of season, that is what we should do, regardless of the results, and regardless of who comes or who does not. I'm glad that biblical preaching is trending right now, but I hope that people don't jump on the biblical preaching bandwagon just to get more people in the door. Rather, we should be on this bandwagon - and stay on it - because that's what God says to do.
At Riverview, faithful men of God have been preaching his word verse by verse, line by line, for as long as I can remember, and we intend to carry on that legacy. I was once approached by a visitor to our church after preaching a sermon and they said to me, "It is so refreshing to hear a sermon that is based on the word of God, telling us what God says." Although I was honored by their compliment, my first thought was, "What else is there to preach?" Why would you want to hear from a fallible, imperfect man when you could hear from the God of the universe? I certainly don't have any of my own thoughts or ideas that are worth talking about. My wisdom is nothing compared to God's. Why would I preach anything but the Bible? Everything else pales in comparison!
It is my hope that we will be a church that is faithful to dedicating ourselves to receiving the word of God and declaring it with boldness, in season and out of season. We know that God's word never returns void - it accomplishes all its purposes (Isaiah 55.11). May God give us the grace to speak it boldly until he comes.