Summary: How to preach a doctrinal sermon
This lesson is designed to encourage preachers to teach an occasional doctrinal or theological sermon.
Too many people today have gotten the idea that doctrine is not important. Yet, that kind of statement is itself a doctrine. How do you tell a counterfeit note? Any banker will tell you that the best method is to learn the characteristics of the genuine article. The same is true with Christianity. How do you tell wholesome and healthy Christianity from the many counterfeits? Know what doctrines define the genuine item.
This chapter introduces techniques on how to help congregations realize the importance of right doctrine, the dangers of bad theology and how to present theological topics in a manner that is palatable to the man on the street.
1. The Importance of Right Doctrine
The preaching of doctrine or theology is as important for Bible College students as it is for lay members. Teaching right doctrine is like giving your congregation an inoculation against a disease, it will protect them from the spiritual sickness of counterfeit and deficient forms of Christianity.
Doctrine is simply teaching, so those who claim that doctrine is not important are making a dangerous claim (2 Timothy 4:3). Yet clearly the Bible explains that right doctrine, right teaching is important (Matthew 7:28; 28:20; John 8:31; 1 Corinthians 11:2). One of the earliest instructions to a preacher was that given by Paul to Timothy, and he told him to devote himself to public reading of scripture, preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). Right teaching is vital to the health of any local church.
2. The Danger of Bad Theology
All theologians and all preachers will teach some things that are absolutely wrong. We are fallible and cannot be right on everything. Some things are minor. For instance, it does not matter whether or not our view is pre-millennial, post-millennial or a-millennial. In the end of the day, Jesus Christ will return when he is supposed to and we will all be glad, whether or not our theories came even close. I have heard that called pan-millennialism; it will all pan out in the end. However, the most important things we must get right. What are the absolutely essential issues of Christianity? Wouldn't you say that they have to do with what is central?
So, if you have never studied theology, or went to one of those poor excuses for a Bible College where theology was made light of, and you focused almost exclusively on lesser issues like Christian living, worship leading, youth ministries, church growth and so on, then you may not be qualified to preach this sermon. All of those issues are important, but must be built on a foundation of right doctrine. Otherwise you may not know who you are worshiping, what you are teaching the youth, and why would anybody want to grow another church that cannot get its doctrines right? If you are a lay person, who has not had any theological training or you got your theology from a dubious source, then you too may not be qualified to preach this sermon.
On the other hand, those who have been immersed in theology books for decades and have moved on up to the doctoral level, often have the greatest difficulty in speaking normal English. Sometimes they have moved to a different planet with a different language, and have forgotten the language of their youth. So, there is also an advantage to not having traveled too far towards that distant planet we could call Theology. There is an advantage of still being in contact with mortal men, who speak the language of our day. It is indeed a great challenge to be interested in both theology and using that to serve mortal men. Because of this syndrome, often the best teachers are often those who are only one level above their students and much can be said for the pastor who labors equally diligently among his people and in his books.
Theology covers issues such as theology proper (the study of God), Christology (Christ), Pneumatology (the Holy Spirit), Angelology (angels), Anthropology (humankind), Hamartiology (sin), Bibliology (biblical doctrines), Soteriology (salvation), Ecclesiology (the church) and Eschatology (the last things). These things may seem ominous to the untrained mind, but they are foundational issues and there are orthodox or mainstream positions covering them all. The Bible warns about those who have itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3) always seeking something new, never satisfied with where Jesus has led the Church for 2,000 years. The flock must be protected against false gospels and the best way to do so is to teach them proper doctrine in the first place.
3. Making Doctrine Palatable
How can teaching on Soteriology, or Christology be made palatable to a plumber, a salesperson, a nurse or a dedicated and weary policeman who only wants to bathe in a few moments of peace and calm while off duty? When put in those terms it does not sound relevant, yet theology is not just for air-heads, it is very relevant. For instance, Soteriology is the study of salvation, our rescue by Jesus Christ. A proper study of salvation would include Jesus' intervention to save us now in this life, as well as our eternal lives. The cop on the beat needs both. Christology is all about Jesus and if that is not important then what is?