There is a new snare on the scene in The Body - born out of good intentions and (in many cases) innocuous enough. But it is looming trouble for many, I fear. I'm talking about the growing phenomenon of the clever one-liner that is becoming all-too-common among our evangelists today.
Some of my favorite speakers have succumb to this (and do it quite well) - but I see how this practice has the terrible potential to germinate in unhealthy ways and give rise to good old fashioned pride. I'm starting to see this manifest throughout public ministry - a practice that is turning some of our finest preachers into walking fortune cookies.
Of course, the appeal is exceedingly mutual, as it is painfully obvious that congregations / audiences are coming with expectations to be "zinged" with these biblical quips - hanging on every word and reacting accordingly when a good one-liner emerges. Many sermons appear to be designed to appeal to this trend - building from one zinger to the next with an algorithm that (after a short interval of study) becomes quite predictable. Don't get me wrong - it's fine to cheer a good moment of truth when a preacher brings it forth; but some of it just feels wrong - as though the Word of God has (for many) become a game of verbal mambo.
And it shouldn't be surprising... Most of these zingers - even the ones with which I agree - are disproportionately "uplifting" and positive. I know, I know - what's wrong with that? Who doesn't want to be uplifted and feel positive? Indeed, it would be very nice to live in a world where this ratio is appropriate - but reality should always dictate our approach, and the truth speaks for itself. Our world is fallen; sinful, rancid, rebellious, and overtly wicked in most quarters. Logic would dictate a balanced approach at the very least - that warnings would play a regular (if not equal) part in messages that are conveyed to congregations in dire need of truthful discourse on the wages of sin. But rarely do these clever verbal fortune cookies give warning or even hint of a hell to shun.
Let's get real - very FEW truths can be properly summarized in a single sentence - and some truths may take a book to be properly conveyed. This new practice seems to cater to the McDonald's generation of fast-food junkies who want it fast, want it now, and want it cleverly packaged. Devotionals that fit on a desk calendar and are almost never really challenging to the soul. They may make you feel warm and fuzzy for a short while - but like sugar from a Bismarck, the buzz wears quickly away leaving the reader feeling empty and craving more. No, I'm not railing against desk calendar style devotionals (some are really good) - but they should NOT constitute the sum total of your daily devotions.
The danger, of course, is a dual one:
(1) Malnourished parishioners who have bought into the silly notion that a truth can always be compressed into clever little sound bites. Brevity may indeed be the soul of wit, but it is NOT the best container for spiritual truth - not by a long-shot.
(2) Good old-fashioned pride on the part of the speaker. Wisdom, remember, was the promise of the fall and led to the eating of an apple that got us into this mess. This temptation has risen its ugly head in our midst countless times in various forms over the centuries, consuming whole generations who considered the pursuit of wisdom to be the highest goal of all. It is not. In fact, true wisdom can only be attained through God. When found, wisdom always leads the pilgrim into deeper levels of relationship (and trust) with Abba that never fails to defy most conventional axioms.
I'm not mentioning names - that's hardly my point. As I said - some of my favorite ministries are starting to succumb to this, and I am deeply troubled by the trend. I am praying that it can be quelled before the practice fully manifests to ship-wreck major ministries that I have come to love over the years. Please remember that the enemy of our soul is sly and devious - one who is even willing to endure a biblical truth (left unmolested) so long as he can help it be packaged in such a manner that it gains for the speaker praise. It is at this point that the snare is set and the game (for the enemy) is truly afoot.
We must be on our guard. Jesus is coming, and the Judgment Seat of Christ is going to be a sobering experience for many. Always speak truth, even when the message is unpopular - even when it rolls off the tongue like a running duck.
Your brother and servant in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Mark Scott Grimmett GoldenLight Ministries www.YeshuasArmy.com