When we hear a preacher talk about "our Jesus-shaped hole" we're sensitive to the dangers. It sounds instantly "me-centred" doesn't it? If a preacher goes on about our felt needs and how Jesus meets them, Jesus seems only as big as the hole that's in us. That can't be right.
Yet, while we may be able to spot that error, another kind of me-centredness can beset the soundest of pulpits. Let me pick on perhaps the three most popular topics preached on in the churches I visit. These days the Trendy Trifecta is Trinity, grace and idols. Everything now is Trinity, grace and idols. Thinking back to last Sunday, I touched on all three, and if you're a preacher I hope you covered at least two of those!
But here's the danger, we are so self-obsessed, we can even make these truths all about us. We psychologize them and turn them into anthropology not theology. So,
We're interested in "Trinity" because it resonates with our need for love.
We love love, we think it's lovely. So we love that God is love. And we preach the Trinity because it accords with our prior proclivities. We don't preach Trinity as the nature of God, we preach it as wish-fulfillment.
We're interested in "Grace" to the degree that it's a motivator in our lives.
It's all about which regime produces the better Christian life - carrot or stick. Well, because we're "grace" people, we say CARROT. Loudly! But what we mean is "we believe in a certain shape to the Christian life" - not "we believe in a certain shape to God's life." Again, we don't preach grace as God's very nature (quite apart from how we feel about it), we preach it as wish-fulfillment.
We're interested in "Idols" as a psychological explanation for our patterns of addiction.
Idols-speak provides us with a window onto our own desires and we need little encouragement to think about ourselves. Idols-speak can become like the online personality test to discover the real me: delicious! But in preaching there's a real danger that we don't consider idols theologically. I find it rare for a preacher to define idols (as Scripture does) as false conceptions of God. Instead we consider over-investment in the world and the flesh and how we can solve our idolatry problem by determining to worship the right thing. In all this, God Himself is quite dormant, waiting for us to switch our allegiances. We are centre-stage. (More on idolising idols here).
It might sound "God-centred" to talk about Trinity and grace and idols, but so easily we make it all about us.