Kierkegaard once wrote, “We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up, they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the commander’s voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of musketry, the thunder of cannon–everything exactly as in war, lacking only one thing . . . the danger.
So also it is with playing Christianity, that is, imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible–only one thing is lacking . . . the danger.”
Kierkegaard wrote in the 1800’s. He was a Danish philosopher who wrote concerning the church of his day. He saw warning signs that the church he saw was becoming cold and lifeless. It is evident in this quote of his that what he calls as ‘danger’ was lacking in the sermons of his day. The church held the outward appearance of being prepared for war and that it was in training but one thing was lacking and that was danger. Danger here appears to be the risk associated with powerful preaching. When a preacher preaches the bold truth of Scripture, they can bring much heat upon themselves because often the truth rubs against the modern cultural worldview.
Preaching is meant to be counter cultural in some ways. When we are listening to a sermon, within that sermon needs to be a calling to reflection on how the culture is influencing our lives and whether that influence is of God or of man. If we in the church withdraw from ‘risky’ preaching, we may begin to be afraid to address issues that may be against the norm of our society. We may be more concerned with tickling ears or with not going against the flow of culture. We are called to repentance and that takes reflection. And reflection may take action and change.
What are the indicators in our lives that show that we are striving to live a set apart life? Have we taken the time to evaluate our worldview to see if we have made compromises in our faith? Have we counted the cost of what it will mean to preach with fervor and passion and with a little risk or danger? It probably won’t win you too many popularity awards but it will change lives in those who have ears to hear.
Søren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon Christendom, trans. Walter Lowrie (1944; reprint, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 180.