Helm on "blind adherence to contextualization."

Certain words make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  If I’m listening to a sermon at a conference or on a podcast, and a pastor or speaker drops one of these words, I cringe, hold my breath, tighten my shoulders, and wait for what he says next.  I had that experience several months ago when I listened to the audio of a lecture on preaching by David Helm.   “Contextualization…” he said.  I quickly breathed a sigh of relief as I then heard one of the best lectures on expositional preaching I’ve ever heard.  Those lectures are now in book form.  Here are some of the nuggets from chapter 1.

  • "[Augustine’s] surprising ability to connect to his listeners was the result of his general interest in life; it was not a calculated outcome brought about by harvesting cultural references in hopes of coming off as relevant” (15).
  • "By elevating contextualization to a studied discipline overly focused on practical gains, some preachers treat the biblical text in a haphazard and halfhearted way" (16).
  • "…the preacher is bound to miss the mark of biblical exposition when he allows the context he is trying to win for Christ control the Word he speaks of Christ" (17).
  • "In essence, our propensity for inebriated preaching over expositional preaching stems from one thing: we superimpose our deeply held passions, plans, and perspectives on the biblical text.  When we do so, the Bible becomes little more than a support for what we have to say "(26).
  • "The only remaining questions I had to answer before stepping into the pulpit that week were: Who will be king?  Me?  Or the biblical text?  Would I reign over it this week, or would it rule me?  Would I lean on the Bible for my purposes and plans, or would I stand under it, allowing the illumination of the Holy Spirit to have his way with my people?" (29)
  • "And what I have learned is this: my congregation’s needs, as perceived by my contextualized understanding, should never become the driving power behind what I say in the pulpit.  We are not free to do what we want with the Bible.  It is sovereign.  It must win.  Always."