Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is that Really Necessary?

As a boy I was a smart aleck. I still have a rascally (thanks Elmer) sense of humor. More than once, upon injecting what I thought was just some good clean fun into the situation, I would hear the voice of authority pour water on my amusement with the ever useful, "Was that really necessary?" Sometimes, the temptation was to retort, "when someone says or does something that dumb, yes!" But, that would have just poured gasoline on the fire. I'll let you decide whether I learned that by applying wisdom or through the school of hard knocks. Regardless, it takes a while to learn grace.

I did not grow up in church, per se, even though I attended a few mainline church services along the way. I did do some hard time in Sunday School, but got released early, when I was 10, for bad behavior. ;-) Occasionally, I bumped into a televangelist while flicking the TV dial through its rotation. I've got to say, the unique techniques of communicating to church people struck me as weird and distracting. If folk talked that way anywhere else, they'd never be taken seriously, but laughed to scorn. Why the personal history? The background is needed to understand the point of view of what you're about to read.

What is it that I have to say? Well, to all those who "preach" the Gospel, (and maybe for all those who go to hear the gospel being preached), "Stop being a clown!" Church is not a carnival, preaching the Gospel isn't a performance, and the "anointing" doesn't have any biblical, behavioral signs! Enough with huffing and puffing, and eyes rolling back in their sockets, and sudden shudders, and profuse, self-inflicted sweating, and hanky waving, and on, and on, and on. I'm reminded of a car manufacturing anomaly from the 70's: the Chevette SS. Stripes and chrome, and a bigger engine package could never hide the reality-- it was still just a Chevette! Vroom! Vroom! Rather than the example of Christ, carnival barking preachers emulate the illusionist's art, i.e. they distract the audience away from the truth with the show.

WWJD. I think it's germane to the preaching "craft". If Jesus didn't do it, should we? Who better knows how to communicate eternal, life-giving truth than he? It's alright to be a fool for Christ, and it's OK to preach foolishness as the world sees it, but it's not acceptable to diminish the majesty and importance of the message of Christ through affected tomfoolery. So, the next time you're preaching (or even the next time you're going to see a preacher), do everyone a favor, especially the Lord of glory: ask yourself, "Is that really necessary?"