Use Contrast for Full-Bodied Preaching
- Wednesday, July 18, 2007
They are usually boring beyond belief, and the reason for that is simple: there's no conflict.
The writer tells of walking miles to the rural three-room schoolhouse, describes the simple desks and stern-faced teacher and lively classmates, tells of studying grammar and penmanship and the 3 R's, and such. After three pages of this, the reader is crying, "So, what happens?" The answer is: nothing. The writer is just telling about her childhood, a subject of interest to only a dozen people, all of them related to her.
A novelist reveals a technique she uses to put zest into her novels. Above her computer, she has fixed this message on an index card: "Things get worse."
Write a book about a person who went from success to success without a stumble, without encountering opposition, just one unbroken line of jackpots and windfalls and accolades, and no one will buy it. It's boring. But write one about a person who tried and got knocked down, who got back up and tried again, who kept learning and growing but kept encountering opposition, but who eventually comes out on top and you've got yourself a winner.
There is a reason Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are considered the greatest presidents this country has ever had. All three faced incredible conflicts in their administrations, were knocked down repeatedly by life and circumstances and yet came out on top victoriously. It's entirely possible some of the other chief executives may have been just as brilliant and equally dedicated, but their administrations faced no great conflict to test them and they were never proven.
That's why people who read the biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower are fascinated by his leadership of the Allied victory in the European portion of World War II, but are bored out of their minds by the account of his presidency for eight years in the 1950s. Conflict makes the difference.
Look at the conflict all through the narratives of Scripture. In Genesis, Adam and Eve faced the serpent and God. Abraham tried to carve out a life of faith in a hostile, pagan world. Joseph was beset by cruel brothers and an unfair slave owner, spent years in prison before being elevated to the throne, and eventually confronted his brothers in one of the great scenes in Scripture. In Exodus, we have Moses and the challenge of leading 2 million Israelis from Egypt to Canaan. Samson and the Philistines. David and Goliath.
In the New Testament, the life of Jesus is filled with conflict, beginning at His birth when King Herod slays the babies of Bethlehem and ending with His crucifixion on a Roman cross. The story of the spreading of the Gospel is about overcoming opposition.
In fact, I dare the reader to find one boring story in Scripture.
And the writers had never even heard of Grady Cook and his lesson about painting the dark side.
The darkness has always been there; Scripture simply records it.
It's the preaching of some of us -- I speak as an offender here -- that leaves it out, that deals with life as all lightness and fluff.
One more area comes to mind.
Sit in the living room sharing the good news of Christ's salvation with the average Joe-Blow and leave out the dark side and Joe wants no part of it. You've told him the good news -- God loves you, Jesus wants to be your Lord, He'll come into your life and give you salvation and a home in Heaven and all you have to do is open your heart and pray to him the prayer I'm about to show you -- but he's bored.
You left out something vital.
You never told him why the Gospel is good news.
Joe Blow, you are a sinner. Here is God's law (We might turn to Exodus 20, and the Ten Commandments, for instance). You've broken it. You've broken it here and here and here. Now, Joe, Scripture says, "All have sinned." Romans 3:23. Then we read, "The wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23. Joe Blow, you, sir, are in a lot of trouble.
Now and only now is Mr. Blow ready to hear the words of the gospel.
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