Plain Style Preacher

Here’s a clip of Rick Warren explaining his preaching style to John Piper (HT). While I certainly cannot call myself a fan of Warren, what he’s saying here is very correct.

(As to whether he practices this, well, I’ve never attended Saddleback so I have no idea.) Is this not our great temptation, to use all our theological words and name drop all our big names? Yes there are times and places for that, but I think Warren is correct in thinking that for most people sitting in the pews, while they want something substantial, they also don’t want to have to whip out a thesaurus or pretend they get every reference.

While there are some that are passionate about theology and like to discuss it and dissect and generally figure their way around it, that’s not where most people are. There are so many faithful lives lived by people who don’t know what imputation means or if double predestination has to do with predicting baseball plays or if kenosis was a character in Star Wars or if theodicy was that epic by Homer. What about those people who are merely disinterested in lots of abstract theory? Do we condemn them to Sunday after Sunday of boredom where they slowly drift away from church because it’s always talking about this obscure intellectual stuff.

The trick here of course is to not dumb things down as it were. But even that turn of phrase is revealing – if we don’t use all the fancy theology codewords, we’ve made the truths of Christianity dumber?! Maybe after all this though you’re one of those who flat out don’t like Warren. I know he has his share of enemies, especially after that Desiring God fiasco. In that case, I would council you to read particularly the works of Robertson Davies – he of the “plain style” whose works certainly stand with the very finest in Canadian literature yet were a product of style that sought to use the simplest language possible to convey meaning. Is this not possible with preaching and theological instruction? Or do our codes words mean too much to our clubiness and in-group identity?