Many of the largest and "most successful" churches have built their ministries on the value of practicality. As a result, Christians today have come to expect spiritual formation by numbers: 5 love languages, 7 steps to healing, 40 days of purpose. But has our demand for a practical faith paradoxically limited the Bible's effectiveness in our lives? Lee Eclov, pastor of Village Church of Lincolnshire in Illinois, shares the dangers he sees in practical preaching.

Rob, a stockbroker, thought sermons should be 20 minutes. No longer. To him, a good sermon was what others call the conclusion. "Cut to the bottom line," he said. "That's what I expect at work, and that's what I want at church."

Stan, a preacher, didn't see length as the issue, but he was determined every sermon be "practical." He preached on five principles of friendships, six secrets of managing money, and four ways to win over worry. He believed in sound doctrine, but he felt he had to give people something they could take to work on Monday morning.

These men illustrate two fallacies about biblical preaching: The Bottom Line Fallacy and the Practical Fallacy. Both reveal a misunderstanding, not merely of preaching, but of the workings of Scripture.

Rob, a stockbroker, thought sermons should be 20 minutes. No longer. To him, a good sermon was what others call the conclusion. "Cut to the bottom line," he said. "That's what I expect at work, and that's what I want at church."

Stan, a preacher, didn't see length as the issue, but he was determined every sermon be "practical." He preached on five principles of friendships, six secrets of managing money, and four ways to win over worry. He believed in sound doctrine, but he felt he had to give people something they could take to work on Monday morning.

These men illustrate two fallacies about biblical preaching: The Bottom Line Fallacy and the Practical Fallacy. Both reveal a misunderstanding, not merely of preaching, but of the workings of Scripture.

Picture a wilderness. A pioneer carves out a path, chopping away brush, felling trees, marking the way to a new outpost. As years pass, that path is traveled a thousand times till it becomes a wide, paved road. From it, other trails branch off, leading to other new outposts. Trails intersect, becoming crossroads. More outposts become towns. More trails become roads. More links are made till what was once wilderness is civilized.

Preaching is the work of spiritually civilizing the minds of Christian disciples. Preaching - especially expository preaching - cuts truth trails in the minds of our listeners. Our task is not only to display God's "point," but to instill God's logic? - how he gets to that point.

For example, we do not simply preach the conclusion of 1 Corinthians 13 - that "the greatest of these is love" - but we move people through the dimensions and definitions of love in that great chapter. We show that Paul intended such love be not only at weddings but also at church meetings as well. In other words, we not only establish the outpost - "the greatest of these is love" - but the truth trail as well. But here is where we confront the fallacies.

Bottom Line Fallacy

When our goal is to "bottom line" our preaching, we look in our text for the "so" and preach that conclusion. For example, our sermon drives home the truth that we need not be afraid. If we have been effective, our brothers and sisters go home with this outpost of truth established or enlarged in their thinking. But here's the rub. On Tuesday, when some frightening crisis looms in their lives, they may remember, "the Bible says we are not to be afraid," but they don't know how to be strong. They don't know the trail, the process the mind and heart follow to fearlessness. We exposed them to the conclusion without the thinking that makes that conclusion work.

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