“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bill Cosby & Content of the Sermon

I wanted to post this; I have been thinking quite a bit about sermon content lately, and had an epiphany (sort of).

Many may not remember Bill Cosby before the Cosby Show, or his recent spate of activism and speeches, but some of us are old enough to remember his fabulous stand-up and album career. What many may not know is that Bill Cosby has a great routinue about sermon content (he probably doesn't even know it!).

It is a routinue that almost perfectly expresses my concern as regards sermons in the modern church. It is the skit about chocolate cake for breakfast, and it goes something like this:

Dad, (Bill Cosby), is assigned the task of preparing breakfast for his children. Well, he knows just enough to be dangerous, i.e. the basic ingredients of what composes a proper breakfast. So, he thinks through the contents of chocolate cake (of which the family has some sitting on the counter), "hmm, eggs, butter, flour... that is basically breakfast food"... So, he proceeds to cut his children large slices of cake which they happily devour, all the while singing this little ditty: "Dad is great, he gave us chocolate cake".... All is blissful until Mrs. Cosby shows up, and well... you know the rest of the story, it isn't good for Bill!

Well, how does this relate to the current spate of soft-soap sermon material that is saturating the church; i.e. sermons devoid of anything resembling the gospel in it's fullness? Well, let's see if I can pull this together --

Bill a.k.a. Dad, is the hapless pastor who knows just enough to be dangerous. He knows the basics, i.e. Eggs=Jesus; Butter=Loves; Flour=You. This he mixes together with cocoa powder=secular and/or pop psychology; and sugar=feel-good, happy messages, and creates what he assumes is a healthy and wholesome breakfast. And of course, the children, a.k.a., the congregation sits around singing his accolades: "Pastor X is great, he gives us chocolate cake!"

All is happy until Mrs. Cosby a.k.a. someone with a clue about the actual gospel message, shows up and disapproves.

What was missing from Bill's breakfast? Didn't it contain some of the correct materials necessary for a healthy breakfast? Yes, it did, but mixed with the wrong ingredients, and dished up in incorrect portions, it becomes an unhealthy meal that will only make obese and toothless children.

What needs to be done? Well, first, DON'T mix the good ingredients in with unhealthy ingredients. Second, put together a COMPLETE breakfast; i.e. with the eggs, butter, and flour, let's add toast=we are children of wrath, and a nice healthy sliced tomato=the Spirit makes us NEW CREATIONS, and all of the makings of a proper breakfast. As with all analogies, this is not perfect, but it does describe the fact that many sermons contain a lot of Jesus loves you, but very little of the other aspects of the gospel, such as atonement, the fact that we are children of wrath, that we are to become new creations and turn from the old ways.

What I have seen is that the pastors preach JUST ENOUGH knowledge of the gospel to produce chocolate cake, but there are fewer who can put together a wholesome meal!

Thanks for humoring me; I had this in my head and wanted to put it down. I am sure that it is missing components, and needs work, but I feel better now that it is down in a post...

19 comments:

Ephraim said...

Ray,

I just have a question that has little to do with chocolate cake.

Have you heard of Michael Rood or Brad Scott? If so, have you read any of their materials or listened to any of their teaching?

Your comment about content brought them to mind. They are anything but cake!

Shalom

Ray said...

I have heard a little about Rood, and nothing about Brad Scott...

Don't know much about them... The one small snippet I saw of Rood was somewhat sensational, but that might just have been the piece I picked up...

Steve Sensenig said...

So what does the morning coffee equate to in the Gospel? To me, that is the most important part of breakfast, so I'm thinking it must be the resurrection... ;)

Great post, Ray. I really appreciate your recent contributions to my blog, and I am glad I have made your cyber-acquaintance! If I ever make it back to Dallas, I think I know of a church I can visit!! :)

steve :)

Ray said...

Yeah, I think that the coffee is the resurrection as well! :-) (I am a coffee head)...

You are MORE than welcome to stop by and see us!

And I have been very appreciative of our 'cyber-acquaintance'...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

What a fantastic post! You make a good point here.

I think I heard that sketch on the radio once.

God Bless

Matthew

Ray said...

Thanks Matthew...

Rose~ said...

Good toast ... I mean post! I saw a reference to it on Dyspraxic fundamentalist. You are so right, the important ingredients are diluted with filler and become rather ineffective.
Glad to see your blog!

Charles North said...

I was in the middle of preparing Sunday's sermon when I thought, "mmm, let's check Ray's blog." Now I have to start my sermon "from scratch." Thanks man!

Ray said...

LOL -- Sorry Charles... Thanks for stopping by...

rose~ - Thank you for stopping by as well, I have seen you on many of the blogs I frequent, but have never had the chance to actually converse with you... I enjoyed the recent discussions on your blog regarding TULIP...

Rose~ said...

Ray,
How interestin, I'm glad you enjoyed the TULIP series. I really learned a lot about Christian thinking. That surprises me when I hear someone has been reading my blog and doesn't comment. I, on the other hand, rarely keep my blog mouth shut! I'll be back!

Ray said...

rose~ -- I don't always comment as I only want to say something when I feel it will be of worth... sometimes I fail that test though!.

I learn a lot by reading -- and not always do I need to say something...

You are always welcome here...

BugBlaster said...

I remember that routine! Now that insipid "Dad is great" tune is rolling through my head. Did you ever hear the album with Fat Albert and Junior Barnes? Sometimes I play it on the antique turntable and start giggling. My kids look at each other and roll their eyes.

The thing about the kids and the chocolate breakfast was that although the kids thought it was great, they didn't know any better. It was really not good for them. The kids probably weren't pleased that mom stopped this from ever happening again, but that was also because they didn't know any better.

It can't be easy being a faithful pastor of the Truth.

Thanks Ray, this is a good post.

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Fantastic thoughts!

But let me go one step further. I think churches need more expository and less topical preaching. Along these lines, a former pastor of mine used to say he viewed his role to be that of the waiter. The Chef (aka the Holy Spirit) did a great job fixing the dish (ie. the Word), and no one wants the waiter rearranging the dish. The preacher is to herald what God says in His Word.

God's Word is written in books not verses! And the authors of Scripture are very good at making their point through the development of an argument (several chapters long, often, as in Hebrews). But the modern pastor comes along and takes one verse here, a couple there, and writes his own book in delivering an ensemble that is pleasing to his eye. Please, give me what the Chef made! Verse-by-verse messages, and expository messages dealing with a section of the text are successful in that they help us see what is being said. Only then is the full power of the Word unleashed as it is enabled to minister to us in the way intended by its Author.

So often topical messages end up devolving into a "spring text" (place from which to spring the message from), three points and a poem. We stamp outlines onto Scripture in whichever way we can. Often pastors know what they will say before they know which text to use!

However, do not misunderstand me. I believe there is a place for topical preaching. An Easter message at Easter time, or like this Sunday, our pastor will be preaching a message on the sanctity of life, in tune to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Also, preaching of systematic doctrines, and systematic topics (like faith, love, etc.) can be helpful. But please give me Scripture not mere opinion!

Ray said...

Fundy Reformed -- I agree wholeheartedly! We preach expositorial through the Scriptures...

Thta is part of what I was attempting to say -- preachers put the 'spin' on God's Word to make THEIR point, not the Scriptures...

Ray said...

Fundy Reformed -- I meant expositorially -- don't know where I got that 'other' word! :-)

Fundamentally Reformed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fundamentally Reformed said...

Ray,

I kind of thought that was what you were getting after.

God Bless.

Paul said...

Nice, very nice. I wish all congregations could hear this sermon today!

Ray said...

Paul! So good to hear from you...