October 1971

Hearing Ones Echo

Robert F. Turner

Many preachers are amazed at what some hearers get from their effort. It is often foreign to their intent, and sometimes defies explanation. I said, The Holy Spirit dwells in us, in the same way the Father and Son dwell in us; and a listener thought I said there was no Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Godhead. Or, we present a lesson on the nature and make-up of the church; and someone thinks this is a new and startling way to say the church is unimportant. A preacher must constantly seek to improve on his means of conveying ideas, but the hearers could also do with a bit of self-examination.

We hear through the mechanics of the ear; but our understanding, or the mental impression we get may be greatly influenced by previous experiences which tend to classify and interpret the sermon. Alabama saints hear with their own sectional background, which is vastly different from that of the west coast cities. A lesson welcomed in Texas as a warning against the encroachment of institutional influence. may seem too old line Sommerism in Missouri or Ohio. Older people, especially in the rural south, hear with the Baptist in mind; while younger people ask why so much preaching must be unrelated to the actual problems of religion in their current lives.

Our controversial history has also geared us to reactionary hearing and preaching. Perhaps older men like myself (what am I saying) who have debated Faith Only, Holy Spirit, etc., tend to hear weakness along those lines — because we know what former opponents would do with some of the state- -ments we read and hear these days. Younger men, who have not and may never meet such teachers of error have a tendency to cast all this aside as unnecessary in the first place. We should be patient with the sincere young man who is testing his studies against current problems; and he would do well to appreciate value in lessons learned the hard way, in the battles of yesterday.

There is far too much haste in cataloging brethren by the way we hear their statement — without taking into consider- ation their background and the setting in which they spoke or wrote. It is one thing to point out error, or even to show that consistent application of that error would produce a certain end; and quite another thing to assert that the author accepts all consequences. One does not have to join the Jesus People movement in order to advocate simple, sincere worship of God free from traditional hypocrisy; nor is a long- established practice in worship necessarily hypocritical. We need not ascribe to the abuses of the S.O.T. journal in order to teach the true nature of the church. One may work for better government, as a Citizen. without joining protestors intent on overthrowing law by revolt. One is not necessarily a Sommerite because he sees error in the professional Pastor system, or questions the practice of some school.

Maybe the point we thought we heard was just following a groove we dug for it. We challenge the musical taste of one who plays our own song.