The Church of Christ and Contextless Prooftext Sermons
Here is a former Church of Christ member talking about the CoC style of preaching.
SOURCE: There are many wonderful Churches of Christ with uplifting biblical speakers. However, hard-line Churches of Christ use a preaching style that often uses up to 30 scripture quotes in one sermon:
1. Each scripture is intended to build the point or points.
The problem with this preaching style is that the context is usually lost by the third or fourth scripture citation, if it was ever established.
I have heard many preachers and members of these Churches of Christ express pride in the fact that so many scriptures are cited in sermons. Preachers are admired if they can recite many scriptures in a sermon off by heart.
The only way so many scriptures can be cited all in one sermon is to ignore each context of each scripture. This is fine if the entire congregation and all the visitors know the context of each verse cited, but this is seldom the case.
For instance when a sermon on the inspiration of the scriptures is preached, there is usually a progression from Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles and imbuing them with power from the Holy Spirit, to the Day of Pentecost, then statements by the apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus (2:20–“the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets”). The clincher is from Paul’s letter to Timothy (II Tim. 3:16–“All Scripture is Godbreathed”). Then Peter’s comments about Paul’s writings (II Peter 3:15). Wrap it up with Jude 3: “The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. That about does it.
I probably heard II Timothy 3:16 quoted at least one thousand times in sermons. I do not ever remember the context being given. I do not ever remember being mentioned the fact that Paul is speaking about the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures in this passage. The hard-line Churches of Christ see the Old Testament ending at the cross and the New Testament beginning with the Day of Pentecost. They see a sharp dispensational change between the Old Testament and the New. To have the one favorite verse on the inspiration of the scriptures refer to the Old Testament scriptures (the New Testament had not yet been written) would seriously rankle, if the context were known.*
2. Even when the truth is being taught, to jump from passage to passage without understanding who wrote the book, and to whom, is a poor way to teach the Bible.
3. The biggest issue that arises from contextless sermons is the theme that the New Testament has a hidden blueprint for the work, worship and organization of the local congregation that is obvious if an honest person reads it (Taking the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week, having no financial cooperation between congregations, no instrumental music, etc.).
This doctrine of a hidden blueprint in the New Testament can only be taught by ignoring the true context of the passages and imposing a distinctly hard-line Church of Christ presupposition onto the New Testament. **
- One has to assume that God is a rules-oriented God when it comes to commanding the practices of church worship.
- One has to assume that whatever the early churches did in response to Christ had to be because they were following strict rules that were given to them orally by the apostles that were never written down.
- One has to assume that these unwritten rules are so important that, in order to preserve the sanctity of these rules when others disagree, one has to divide and split churches.
When the context of these favorite blueprint passages are studied they do not indicate rules at all–only examples of the early church’s response to Christ.
4. These sermons are exciting to members of hard-line Churches of Christ, because they see their raison d’etre so powerfully laid out in scripture upon scripture, like a beloved memorized catechism comfortingly repeated as a ritual week after week. And for the same reason, these sermons are boring, if not irritating, to those who come to church wanting their understanding of their relationship with God to be expanded and empowered to be able to face the stresses and temptations of life.