Treat Them Like Adults

About a week ago, Sean Chandler wrote about a thought-provoking experience he had a at a meeting for youth pastors.

He wrote, “All we did was discuss the question, ‘How do you mobilize and equip students to go share the gospel?’ The only answer which came to mind initially was, ‘I treat them like adults.'”

I read this and was fired up in a really good way. Our church has a really great youth pastor who, from all accounts, challenges Jr. and Sr. High students with deep biblical material. Our lead and worship pastors (our primary preachers), with increased emphasis in the couple of months, try to challenge us with weighty issues. This is something I’m very grateful for.

But I got to thinking: I wonder how often we—the larger church, not our specific congregation—treat the larger congregation like adults?

Truthfully, I don’t know that we do. The increasing biblical illiteracy of North American Christians seems to indicate that something is seriously wrong.

My preference in preaching is that it is exegetical. I believe that this is the best way to challenge and equip all of us within the congregation. I believe that exegetical preaching prevents the creation of an “out” for difficult subjects. If you’re preaching through the book of Romans (or Ephesians, Acts, John, 1 Peter, Jude, Colossians, 1 John, or virtually every other New Testament book), you’re going to have to inevitably deal with the subject of election, which many might be tempted to avoid simply because it’s such a hot-button doctrine for many.

That said, I do believe there’s a place for topical preaching, or preaching to a “felt need” (whatever that means) when necessary and appropriate. Some topics aren’t served well with strictly exegetical or expository preaching. For example, it would be rather difficult to address birth control methods while preaching through Revelation. But you can discuss this well topically, taking principles that exist throughout Scripture.

While I don’t have a problem with topical preaching in general, I have to wonder: Does preaching strictly to “felt needs” truly treat the body as a group of adults who are capable of being challenged by what the Bible says?

When you’re listening to the Sunday sermon, do you feel like you’re being spoken to like an adult?

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.