Blog # 18: “Less Tips; More Verses”

Have you noticed the recent trend? I’m referring to is the now commonplace practice of preachers to package their sermons as tips for living. How often are we tempted with “seven secrets for overcoming sin” or “six steps toward a stronger prayer life” or “principles of Christian marriage”‘ or “the path toward true discipleship”?

It seems that once those who thought their job was explaining the word of God now consider themselves part of the same trade union as therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. Has Christianity become a self-help guru bonanza?

The majority of what I see on television or on the book covers at the airport is not radical or even erroneous, but there’s just something about all those messages and all those sermons (and all those “deluxe CD or DVD albums”) that really bothers me.

When you listen to these sermons, although they are given by Godly men, you are lucky if you hear a scant reference to a Scripture here and there, or perhaps the whole hour is based on one verse. Now mind you, that’s not an hour of exegesis and exposition of that verse, it’s an hour of tips, secrets or principles created by the preacher, largely using anecdotes from daily life or observations the person has made.

There are a couple of exceptions of course. J. Vernon McGee’s Through the Bible program being most notable one and the fact that it’s on everywhere, several times a day now many years after McGee went to be with the Lord shows both the enduring nature of real Bible exposition and the demand for it. Also, the Calvary Chapel radio programs are much better about expositing the Bible.

Why do these men, mostly sound in their theology, good students of the Bible, and sometimes shepherds of congregations numbering in the thousands seem to feel the need to add so much to the Bible? Don’t they feel that the Bible is sufficient? Don’t they think their listeners will understand the Bible or perhaps not return to listening to the program?

Is it a motive to sell CDs and books that causes this phenomenon? Have marketing gurus advised our radio preachers that a book entitled “Exposition of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians” won’t sell a single copy, but “Seven Secrets to Strengthen Your Marriage” will sell a million copies? Is this the law of supply and demand at work here?

Last time I checked, faith came by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I’d like a new movement to spring up in evangelical churches today. We have the inerrancy of Scripture; now let’s have the sufficiency of Scripture. Shall we?