During the state fair, my wife and I received free admission to a musical concert. Early in the concert I noticed something I had never seen before at a purely musical presentation: an interpreter for the hearing-impaired. (Actually, in my younger days I could really have used an interpreter for most of the concerts I attended, since I couldn’t figure out what half of the words were.)
As I watched the interpreter sign the words of the song, I thought about some of the churches where I have attended and preached, and the wonderful people there who have interpreted for the hearing-impaired. Then I realized what most churches really need: an interpreter for the theologically-impaired.
I suppose I made that connection in part because of the television interviews with participants in the papal visit to Denver the same week. Over and over I heard people express their admiration for the pope, then add comments like, “Of course, I don’t really agree with him or the church on a lot of things, but what’s really important is that you have your own beliefs.” As if faith is a do-it-yourself project where you get to write your own directions!
Can you imagine these same people on the job dishing out that kind of foolishness?
“Of course the order sheet called for black paint, Mr. Supervisor. But I really felt as if lime green would be a more meaningful color in my life today. And after all, the color of the paint doesn’t really matter, does it, so long as it’s applied with loving care.”
Yet in the realm of eternal verities, everyone’s an expert. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you’re sincere.” Tell that to the guy who fell twenty stories after sincerely believing he was an eagle.
As preachers, we look out on pews filled with such nonsensical ideas. We preach to people who understand clearly that there are laws of physics, and 1 plus 1 always equals 2, but who object to the idea that faith might somehow involve truths that don’t give way to every passing fancy or trend. Like the reporters in Denver who couldn’t fathom why the people might continue to insist on the necessity of beliefs on which so many American Catholics disagree.
As we preach to a generation used to pointing a remote and zapping away anything disagreeable at the slightest provocation, we face the unenviable task of reminding our theologically-impaired congregants of some unpleasant realities that conflict with current cultural viewpoints. Perhaps the most difficult for them to accept is that it does, in fact, matter what you believe.
That’s why — although I’m not about to reverse the Reformation and return to Rome — I have a lot of respect for a Polish pope who insists that doctrine isn’t determined by the latest survey.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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