Is It Practical?

by Fred G. Zaspel

If there is anything that marks the preaching of our generation it is its need for “relevance.” We go to church today and very naturally expect to hear something that will in some way help our life this week. And if the sermon is not “practical” in these terms, addressing our felt needs, it just isn’t worth our time.

Of course there is something about this “practical” expectation that is very right. The Bible does indeed speak to real life issues, and we should expect the preacher to unpack and apply these truths for us. A religion that does not affect life is not true religion.

But there is also something about this “practical” expectation that is very wrong. First, it forgets that Christianity is a creedal religion. It is much more than that, of course, but it is at least that. It has certain truth claims, propositions that it insists you must understand and believe. God claims that these things are important, and so should we.

This contemporary thinking also fails to come to grips with the command to love God with our mind. This is a foreign concept to many today. But when God commands that we love him with our mind it at least implies that we should be willing to think deeply about him and seek to understand him and his greatness more thoroughly.

In fact, we might as well admit that this cry for “practical” is can be self-idolatrous, too often reflecting a greater measure of concern for my own personal interests than for my knowledge of God. “What use is it to me to learn all this about the Trinity?” a church elder once asked me. What use? I wondered — whatever happened to worship? It would seem that we ourselves have become the objects of our worship and not God.

The irony of all this is that in our preference for “relevance” we sell ourselves short. We do not find our highest fulfillment in life tips. There is nothing better for us, nothing more useful, and nothing more fulfilling than an increased acquaintance with the greatness of God. God is passionate for his own glory, and we ourselves are most satisfied simply in losing ourselves in our pursuit of him.