Bottom Line Preaching
One of the things in math that students tend to balk at is the requirement to “show their work.” Sometimes the work that is to be shown seems so menial that they just don’t understand why they can’t skip that step. As one who has struggled mightily in math, I can certainly sympathize with the desire to get it over with as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, from a more mature perspective, I can now see the value of not just having the right answer but knowing how one arrives at that answer. Similarly, many of us have felt our eyes glaze over during some sales presentation, legal fine print, or some other prolonged and detailed explanation. As we tire of the details, we are wont to say,
“Just give me the bottom-line!” No doubt, this phrase derives from itemized estimates, receipts, or other accountings. The “bottom line” is the answer after all the numbers have been crunched through whatever formulas. Many people do not want to sift through all the data to arrive at an answer. They just want the answer.
I am convinced that it is this way for many when it comes to the study, teaching, and application of God’s word. We like to have ready answers (nothing wrong with that - 1 Pet. 3:15), but sometimes we are not as concerned with how we arrive at those answers. Some people just want bottom-line answers to spiritual questions instead of answers that show their work.
It is one thing if after adequate study we come to answers that we will use as beginning points in future studies. However, when we are preaching to groups of people from all walks of life and at various ages and stages of spiritual growth, we have to take care to “show our work” so they know how we come to our conclusions. For example, some children are raised believing that dancing is wrong. After 50 years of teaching simply that dancing is wrong with-out “showing our work,” it is inevitable that there will be all kinds of misunderstandings. The failure to show how we came to the conclusion that dancing is wrong may seem unimportant to some as long as we are “toeing the line” on dancing (whatever that is). A steady diet of bottom-line preaching may involve the next generation in condemning the guiltless (Matt. 12:7).
However, bottom-line preaching is not unique to those who bind where they should not. It also inhibits the growth and development of those who imagine for themselves liberties that are actually occasions for the flesh (Gal. 5:13). Most children are raised believing that dancing is alright. It is encouraged socially from grade school age up. After 50 years of simply affirming that dancing is a liberty (and that those who oppose it are legalistic prudes) without “showing their work,” it is inevitable that there will be gross misapplications. The failure to show how they came to that conclusion may seem unimportant to some as long as their imagined liberty remains intact. In this case, a steady diet of bottom-line preaching often sees the next generation involved in lasciviousness and un-able to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14). `This article is not about dancing! It is about the need to “show our work,” or, as Paul put it, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thes. 5:21,22). Too often we assume what needs to be proven. If we are concerned about our children and their children standing fast in the truth and making proper application of it in their daily lives, it is imperative that we not only supply them with the right answers, but the know-how to test all things and arrive at those answers. Andy Diestelkamp From Bulletin of the Birchwood Avenue Church of Christ