I’m about as deep as a puddle. What you see is what you get.
I had a conversation with a guy this morning who told me he likes my preaching style. As a complement, he told me the difference between me and some other guys is that I’m practical while others give “doctrine.” I smiled but inside I winced just a little.
I think doctrine is important. The Bible tells us to watch our life and doctrine carefully and not get sucked into false doctrine. It’s part of my job to help people develop sound doctrine. My friend’s complement made me wonder if I am accomplishing that goal. What is “doctrine” anyway?
The dictionary defines it, “a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government.” Okay, I understand that. But what I wonder is if Christ is more concerned with principles than He is positions or policies. Is doctrine all of that definition or just parts of it?
Thinking about it more, I suspect principle yields position that often results in policy. For example, the principle that God’s loves mankind makes me take the position that Christians should love. Then I develop policies and programs that focus on showing love to others. That’s good doctrine. Bad doctrine comes when policy does not support principle. Example?
We could enforce a policy that does not allow men with long hair to join the church. But that would undermine the principle of love and be at odds with it. Bad doctrine.
As my friend and I continued to talk, his point became more clear. He was not saying that my messages are absent of doctrine at all. It was more that he has a tough time finding the practical, the principle, when speakers overload him with information and point upon point.
That affirmed me. It was in the late 80s when I spent time learning from Ken Davis at one of his Dynamic Communicators schools. I remember him showing us that less than 10% of people are able to summarize the key theme of their pastor’s message by the time they reach the exit of the church. Ouch! I determined right then that my listeners would leave knowing the key thought of my messages.
As a result I try not to drive a doctrine dump truck. I try to teach doctrine one shovel full at a time. I’d rather not burry people, overwhelm them or have them leave in a daze.
Sure, Ken Davis helped shape my preaching style but I think the biggest factor in my committing to a single-theme approach is four decades of bracing myself for a weekly Sunday dumping. “Beep! Beep! Beep!”
Can I admit something to you? When I go into a church, I sometimes look for a sermon outline to estimate how long it will take. And, I’ve been known to use outlines to estimate how much longer it will last. (“What?!? He’s been preaching 25 minutes and we are only this far???”)
Yeah, I know. Not very spiritual. I’m not a fan of dump truck preaching. Maybe you are.
I’m going to continue to be a single-theme preacher. My hope is that people might remember the key point at least until they get to their cars.