There’s a really interesting article by David Powlinson in Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church exploring the relationship between psychology and gospel ministry.
Some of it feels a little dated (I mean, how often do you hear sermons about self-esteem from evangelical pulpits these days?), but he makes some very significant points as he probes why psychology rose to such prominence in American evangelical circles in the late 80s. One of which is:
Evangelical churches and theologians have typically not grappled with the problems in living that Christian people have. The church has either misconstrued, oversimplified, or avoided facing the existential and situational realities of human experiences in the trenches of life.
The comment is made often enough that our preaching tends to be weak on application. We do our exegesis. We pour ourselves into biblical theology. We long to show people how to read the Bible. But we don’t do so well when it comes to convincing people that it’s worth reading. That biblical theology makes a difference. That the text we’re exegeting matters.
Someone might suggest that perhaps we don’t really believe that the Bible is worth listening to. Or that we’ve lost faith in the biblical gospel. But I’m not sure that’s it…
Maybe the problem is that we need to pay more attention to pyschology. Or at least the realities that its advocates are responding to. That is, those experiences and situations that make it hard for our congregations to believe what the Spirit is saying in whatever passage we’re preaching from.
I wonder what difference it would make to my preaching if I addressed myself as seriously to the question What makes this hard to believe? as I try to do to the question What is the main point of this passage?