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That we in the church have been infected by the consumerist mindset is a given. It is a buyer’s market, with sellers of every imaginable stripe vying for our attention. In the mindset of too many churches, entertainment rules the day. But even here I run the risk of boring my audience, the risk that you will put down this magazine and turn to other things if I merely rehearse the ills of the church-growth movement.

If, however, we are among those few who yet worship in churches free of clowns on unicycles and assorted other circus freaks, we are not necessarily home free. If we are in the market for meat instead of milk, we are still in the market. Our problems aren’t solved, in other words, if we cater to the right market.

What is missing isn’t just depth. What is missing is authority. Crusty, prickly Reformed folk who spend their Lord’s Day waiting for the pastor to slip up theologically are, in a sense, hardly better than the smiling evangelical who rates his pastor’s sermon with a laugh-o-meter. They both sit in seats of judgment. They simply have different personal standards.

While we are commanded to have the spirit of the Bereans, while we are to test the spirits, it is the spirit of the age that looks at the sermon as something to judge rather than as something by which to be judged. We come to the sermon not ultimately to measure it by the Word of God but to be measured by the Word of God. We come as those under authority, bondservants of the King. While from one perspective it is only that clumsy sinner who is filling the pulpit, from another legitimate perspective, what we are hearing is the Word of God preached.

If we would regain in our day the power of preaching, if we would see our churches, and, from there, our culture remade by the power of preaching, those who listen must come not as those who are hearing a sales pitch but as soldiers being given marching orders. And those who preach must recognize that they are delivering not just a message but the very words of God.

Coram Deo, before the face of God, there is no dickering. There are no negotiations. Instead, there we receive the commands of our King. May we, by His grace, be given ears to hear.

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