Does Your Sermon Persuade or Manipulate?

"You aren't a Christian unless you voted for:.."

"Only true Christians believe..."

"A real Christian would never..."

I hear a lot of this kind of conversation and preaching going on. For the last few years, and especially in the last nine months, I've never heard more.

Seems like when I was a kid and young adult, our Christian bona fides were sorted by denomination. 

"Only Roman Catholics are the true religion," said some. "Oh, no, only Missouri Synod Lutherans are God's elect," said others. Still others said, "The Presbyterians are the only ones who will make it to heaven."

The denominational splitting isn't over of course. In fact, to my amusement I recently received a message informing me the Episcopal Church (my hometown) was apostate, and therefore, the one who wrote the message could not in good conscience pass along anything related to Backstory Preaching. 

Ah, so be it.

But we've added a hoop to our denominational religious safety net.

We've added politics to our litmus test.

I'm not one to avoid mixing the common good, that is our political life, with sermons. 

 

If God is in the highest heavens as well as Sheol, then there is nowhere God is not, even in the back rooms and state rooms where public policy is hashed out.

 

Therefore, there is no realm where preaching is off limits.

That being said, what are we trying to accomplish when we preach? What is our goal and purpose? 

Is our goal to preach our listeners into agreement with our position–political, religious, social, or otherwise?

Or is our purpose to reveal the Good News to our listeners?

 

The Good News is that we are loved and forgiven by God in perfect freedom.

 

If we are going to be not only authentic preachers but authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ, the only way we can offer a sermon is in a spirit of open invitation.

Control is in conflict with freedom.

The sermon that manipulates tries to control the listener's response. It threatens that something is at stake in the relationship with you and/or the church and/or God.

A sermon that leaves the next step up to the listeners and the Holy Spirit, however, offers freedom.

So how can we tell? How can we tell if we're stepping over that line to manipulation? 

Ask yourself these questions...


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