12 months…12 ministries PREACHING (#3)
By Peter Biggs
• DISCIPLESHIP • WORSHIP • PREACHING • EVANGELISM • PASTORAL CARE
• SERVING THE POOR • DELIVERANCE • HEALING 1 • HEALING 2
• CHILDREN & YOUTH Ministries • SENIORS Ministry • MENS & WOMENS Ministries
This month especially we are so grateful for the contributions from three gifted Lower Mainland preachers, all of whom have a high view of this ministry, and by the grace of God are gifted in it’s expression (along with them all having great hair!).
So, much more could be said about Preaching – a critical ‘means of God’s grace’. May you receive encouragement.
Every church devotes significant time during the weekly worship to preaching.
Historically, Evangelicals put more priority on this than Catholics. Of course preachers all bring a different ‘voice’. Philip Brookes wrote “Preaching is truth through personality” (The Art of & Craft of Biblical Preaching) – indeed everyone including Jesus has a unique ‘personality’.
However no matter the tradition, disciples of Christ believe the most important voice they must listen to is God’s.
Preaching is an important way God speaks.
“Preaching is truth through personality”
Anointing and impartation
Preaching can impart or deposit something from God into a hearer’s heart. That something will often involve the understanding but also, by the Spirit it may simply bring encouragement, faith, hope or resolve – ‘light’ for one’s path. Perhaps the Spirit will convict a person of sin and with it give the gift of repentance.
There is mystery in how a fallible human agent can be used by God to do this… convincing a person of righteousness even judgement. This partly what Pentecostals call ‘the anointing’. It does, however, have to do with the Preacher’s faith that preaching is a God given means of grace.
Teaching vs Preaching
Ken Shigematsu – Senior Pastor at Tenth Church in Vancouver contrasts these. “There is an overlap, but teaching imparts knowledge & information, preaching does that but seeks for a response – a verdict.”
Brian Buhler – Lead Pastor at Pacific Community Church in Surrey adds, “I also believe there is a difference between preaching and teaching; Preaching always insists on a response…’will I believe this – if so it’s going to change something in my life’.” At his church the sermon transitions to the Lord’s table and prayer ministry.
In the past
“Time has changed the way people view pastors. The average preacher today is not going to make it on the basis of the dignity of his position. A century ago, the pastor was looked to as the person of wisdom and integrity in the community. Authority lay in the office of Pastor.” said Haddon Robinson, Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
In his classic book ‘Preaching & Preachers’ (written in 1972) the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begins to show causes for the decline in preaching:
“I would not hesitate to put in the first position: the loss of belief in the authority of the Scriptures, and a diminution in the belief of the Truth. I put this first because I am sure it is the main factor. If you have not got authority, you cannot speak well, you cannot preach.”
Same faith today
Jeff Bucknam – Lead Pastor at Northview says, “The Preacher needs to have confidence in the authority of the Scripture. The chief means of making disciples throughout history was the preached Word, Take 2 Timothy 3:16 ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousnes’.
The great 19th Century preacher C.H. Spurgeon was said to climb the stairs up to the pulpit, and pause at each one declaring ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit’ – I feel the same!”
“The chief means of making disciples throughout history has been the preached Word,”
Is preaching dependent on hearers having faith? One might think so, Buhler responds ”No, the preached Word can bring life where there is none. Take the valley of dry bones, Ezekiel said ‘Dry bones, hear the word of God… ‘I will make breath enter you and you will come to life’.”
“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to” Isaiah 55:11
Buhler however does believe that Pastors need to teach their people how to listen to sermons – conscious of the presence of the LORD.
Entertainment, personality & preaching…
Most, if not all leaders of the larger churches are gifted preachers. They often employ self deprecating humorous stories and, (it cannot be denied) they are entertaining. What role should the preacher’s ‘personality’ play?
Shigematsu comments, “In past times there was a high respect for the Scriptures. In Vancouver in 2018 there is not. As Paul did in Acts 17 (when speaking in Athens to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers) we need to contextualize the message. We live in a time when stories speak to people.”
Bucknam says, “Authenticity in leaders is also important. We need to know who we are talking to. It might be a college student, a plumber, a single mom, a professor. Elements of humour can enable them with an inviting ethos.
We all need God’s Word to help us discern our hearts and appreciate the many ‘inner voices’ – temptations, distractions, felt needs… and the importance of choosing God and his ways and applying our faith.
In Ephesians 4 Paul lists five gifts. That of Pastor/ Teacher is usually grouped together.
The Preacher needs to relate God’s word to the felt needs in his hearers – that is Pastoral. The lack of insightfully applying the Word to my life is why I may leave church as ‘dry’ as I came in!
Discerning true needs
However real and valid our ‘felt need’ is, it may not be our true need. For example I may be feel loneliness and conclude my need is for human companionship. That may be legitimate, however dependance on others to meet our needs is usually quite unhealthy – codependent. The true need is for God’s presence who alone can meet our deeper existential need. The sermon must take the hearer either from their felt need and help them address their true need which ultimately is for Christ or disturb complacency so that the hearer feels their real need..
Bucknam seeks to remember, “I’m simultaneously preaching to sinners and sufferers, and need grace and respect when doing so.”
Bucknam also mentioned how he does allow for some vulnerability in his preaching. “I’ve had to deal with depression, and have shared it. Fact is, many of my hearers identified with this and it gave them hope.”
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church puts it this way, “Our basic message to the lost must be good news. If it isn’t good news, it isn’t the gospel. We must learn to share the gospel in ways that show it is both good and news. The gospel is about what God has done for us and what we can become in Christ. A personal relationship to Christ is the answer to all of mans deepest needs. The good news offers lost people what they are frantically searching for: forgiveness, freedom, security, purpose, love, acceptance, and strength. It settles our past, assures our future, and gives meaning to today. We have the best news in the world.”
One popular and untrue quote we often knock around is . . .“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
It is always attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, however no where can we find Francis saying this. It is both bogus and wrong.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? Rom10:12
Practical tips for the preacher
1. Decisively get the plane off the ground!
That means the introduction needs to engage the hearer. Some start with an illustration. Do not apologize or explain your preparation – that is place the focus on yourself.
2. Decisively land the plane at the end.
Some like to read a paragraph in conclusion. It should be carefully crafted and precise and aimed at the heart… Perhaps leading into prayers or the Lord’s Table.
3. Illustrations should be short – for example:
“Part of the driving test for motorcycles is slow riding around a row of cones in a car park. The only way to do it is to fix your eyes on a point in the distance and steer around them using your peripheral vision. It’s a huge discipline NOT to look down! But you look down – you ride into them!” Fix your eyes on Jesus – take them off your obstacles.”
Trust in the Lord and not the preacher
And to the flock? It is tempting to look and see who is preaching this Sunday, and say “oh so-and-so is not on this Sunday, lets stay home.”
We need a balanced diet. Some voices may provide more ‘meat’, but other voices will provide the necessary complimentary foods – they may seem not as ‘tasty’ but God uses them in a different way.
Couple of helpful links:
• Talking the pressure out of sermon prep – by Ken Shigematsu (Preaching Today)
• A Primer on Preaching Like Jesus – Rick Warren (The Christian Broadcasting Network)