Explaining Experimental Christianity
Excerpt from Preaching with Spiritual Vigour by Murray A. Capill
HT: Glenn Leatherman
The reason the word "experimental" is used is because experiential has too many overtones of a subjective experience-based faith. That is not what is meant by the word experimental. The word "experiment" has to do with the testing of of reality and truth. In science we deal with the testing of hypotheses, but in theology it refers to the work of testing reality and truth of God's word in the hearts and lives of people. We cannot and should not leave truth at a hypothesis level that is detached from human experience.
Experimental Christianity values genuine spiritual experience. I always tell people that in the act of preaching my goal is not just to pass out information or knowledge but that to desire to experience and feel the truth i am preaching on as well. Yes, we champion sound doctrine and the importance of holiness, but true Experimental Christianity cultivates a burning zeal for the honor of Christ and the fame of his name (see Eph. 1:16-17). This desire is at the heart of Experimental Christianity.
You need to understand that Experimental Christianity breads a life a godliness, prayer, sanctification, depth, maturity, and reality. It gives rise to piety without be pietistic. This type of spiritual experiences doesn't make the mistake of pursuing the experience rather than pursuing God who gives it. Llove joy, power, excitement, the miraculous, or emotion are not ends in themselves but are by-products of a true relationship with a living God. People often confuse Experimental Christianity with mysticism, supposed new revelations of the Spirit, emotion-based Christianity, or subjective interpretations of Scripture. These distortions of of true spiritual experience do not produce true passion or spiritual vigor. So with that definition in min, here is the challenge for preachers (and for every christian in their proclamation of the Gospel) -
You must cultivate in your own lives a vibrant spirituality , and then, with the enabling of the Spirit, preaching such a way that true spiritual experience is promoted and inculcated in other people's lives also.
Thus Experimental Preaching has a 4-fold concern:
1. First, there is concern to bring the objective truth of God's Word to bear on people's hearts.
It is not preaching of someone's personal experiences, or storytelling, or giving of one's testimony, but the preaching of biblical truth from the Bible as your the sole authority. Proclaim the whole counsel of God's Word whether people want to hear it or not. Truth is never to be preached in a vacuum. You must address their whole person - mind first, and through the mind, the conscience, the affections, and the will.
2. Second, there is a concern to address people's experience of the truth under consideration.
We must do this whether their experience is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, biblical or unbiblical, godly or ungodly. We must take the realities of peoples lives seriously and relates to their actual experiences (joys, sorrows, hopes, fears, aspirations, and disappointments). They sense the relevancy of the Word of God and leave feeling that the preacher has spoken to exactly their situation.
3. Third, there is a concern to lead people to an experience of the transofming power and grace of God in regard to that truth.
Preaching that only gives out knowledge could better serve the people by handing the an USB drive for them to take home and read. The aim must be to give is to give them a knowledge of the truth that leads them to encounter the God of truth himself. People ought to have a presence of God and a glimpse of his majesty and glory.
This makes preaching theocentric (God-centered), not anthropocentric (man-centered). The preacher's desire is that people will be enabled by the Spirit to experience something of the grace , glory and power of God. Preaching out to uplife, ennoble and inspire them as they are drawn into the presence of God Himself.
This also makes the preaching Christocentric (Christ-centered) because only in christ can aperson have access to God, and only in him can they find grace to help thm in their time of needs.
Such preaching must also be Pneumocentric (Spirit-centered) . It is utterly dependent on and deeply conscious of the empower, trasforming, sanctifying work of the Spirit. Without this there can be no encounter with the living God.
4. Finally, experimental preaching is marked by a concern to stimulate greater godliness in the hearer.
Godliness, in all its fullness, is the end goal of such preaching. It aims to bring people nearer to God, give them a deeper and truer knowledge of Him, urge them toward greater conformity to His will, and enable them to serve Him more fully and consistently in their daily lives.