Why I’m not preaching a 50 Shades of anything sermon series

greys

I’ve noticed on social media several churches/pastors who are beginning new preaching series called, or based upon, 50 Shades of Grey. I’m not surprised by this. It’s common to “borrow” themes from movies or shows, and other pop-culture things en vogue. That’s been done in the teen ministry for decades.

I don’t have a problem with someone preaching a series called 50 Shades. Some of those who are I consider friends and colleagues. But, this is why I’m not preaching a series called 50 Shades…of anything.

1. I knew what I would be preaching right now a year and a half ago.

I planned what I’m preaching right now in our church long before this movie came out. I always do. I stop at the beginning of each year, get quiet, pray, listen and think. That’s how I plan. I believe if God can show me what he want’s to me preach next Sunday, He can show me what to preach 6 months from now too. Planning this way, I couldn’t keep up with cultural trends if I wanted to.

2. I don’t need to name a series after the latest popular movie (good or bad) to be relevant.

I’m not in any way saying the church doesn’t need to be relevant. I think it does though I don’t think it’s as difficult to do as some make it out to be. But, you need to hear this:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God is always relevant. And it always has been.

Identifying with every aspect of culture does not make me relevant. What makes my preaching and teaching relevant is when I give my listeners tools to live in the current culture. They already know how to identify with it as I do. We live in it.

3. The equipping of the saints happens when Christ and His Word are the target, not what the world’s doing.

So, do I need to make sure I do my part to equip the church I pastor so they know the dangers of a movie like this? Of course I do. 50 Shades of Grey, from what I understand, is a movie (and book) that takes sexual perversion to a whole new level. It’s a continuation of what the culture of media set by Hollywood has be doing for decades.

How, then, I do equip them? By continually directed their attentions, and my own, to the person and holiness of Christ through worship and the Word. He is the One who equips.

So, if you or your pastor is planning a new sermons series “50 Shades” go for it. No problem here. Just make sure it’s taking attention away from a messed up, over-sexed culture and placing it on the awesome beauty of Christ. He is the ultimate measure, life-changer and relevant to the culture.

Why does he preach like that?

bible in hand

Every now and then the question comes up: why do you preach the way you do? The question is never about style, it’s always about content. Like, why do I preach series instead of just stand alone messages and why do I preach through books of the Bible?

The reason comes from my own conviction which comes from the Bible itself. Paul warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 that the day was coming when people with their ears itching would “heap” up for themselves teachers and try to persuade them to tell them what they want to hear; “suit their own passions.” But, Paul tells Timothy not to fall for that but instead preach the inspired Word of God. And by the way, it’s all inspired. I read today a blog post that explains very well why I do what I do, so let me share it with you.

This is straight from the “Grace to You” blog and is written by John MacArthur. I have copied the post titled “Preach the Word: Because It Brings Depth and Balance to Ministry”in it’s entirety because it explains as well as I ever could why I do what I do:

“One frequently overlooked benefit of consistent Bible exposition is that the preacher’s faith and practice is tested by every text. Over the long haul, everything I have ever taught has had to survive the scrutiny of the Scriptures. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to teach through every verse of the New Testament (using the Old Testament as support and examples). Both my doctrine and my life have been radically shaped by the Word of God, as they have had to stand the test of every single text.

In the big picture, preaching verse by verse, book by book brings a divine balance to ministry. It keeps the preacher from leaving things out or from getting on a hobby horse and riding it to death. It forces him to deal with topics he might not naturally be drawn to if not for the fact that the next verse he is preaching addresses them. Put simply, it requires him to teach God’s truth in the way God revealed it. And that’s the best way to teach.

Some preachers allow their audience to determine what topic they will address. As one popular pastor has written:

Adapt your style to fit your audience. . . . The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text, expecting the unchurched to be fascinated by it. You must first capture their attention, and then move them to the truth of God’s Word. By starting with a topic that interests the unchurched and then showing what the Bible says about it, you can grab their attention, disarm prejudices, and create an interest in the Bible that wasn’t there before.[1]

But such a bait-and-switch approach is really just a recipe for compromise—tempting pastors to tickle the ears of their audience or water down the gospel in an effort to be more appealing. In essence, this approach says that God’s Word is irrelevant, and makes human ingenuity the key to getting sinners interested in the gospel. It is therefore an approach that should be categorically rejected. As James Heidinger writes

Evangelical pastors and theologians can learn from the mainline experience of placing relevance above truth. We must avoid the lure of novelty and soft sell, which, we are told, will make it easier for moderns to believe. Methods may change, but never the message. . . . We are called to be faithful stewards of a great and reliable theological heritage. We have truths to affirm and errors to avoid. We must not try to make these truths more appealing or user friendly by watering them down. We must guard against a trendy “theological bungee jumping” that merely entertains the watching crowd.[2]

We are called to preach the Bible consistently and accurately, fixed on the text as the revealed Word of God which, through the work of the Spirit, alone has the power to save and sanctify souls. When we do this, we can be confident that God is pleased, since our preaching will be in keeping with His Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:154:2).”