Title: Looking at Preaching Afresh
Fresh Thoughts on Preaching: PART 2. Secure in Ministry
ABBREVIATED VERSION FOR FASTER READING!
1. Secure to Minister
Someone said, “What we intend to say and what others hear us saying are not always the same thing.” The preacher who is not absolutely convinced of his message will convey an uncertainty.
A preacher who is not absolutely convinced of the Gospel cannot preach the Good News effectively.
A preacher who is not convinced of the authority of Scripture cannot preach with authority.
Needed: a burning conviction that “this is the word of God and it's the most important thing in all creation!”
Beware a sermon becoming routine, ordinary and even, dare we say it, boring!
What we need most of all is preachers who have just come out of God's presence who can say, “God says…” and say it with a conviction that comes from a divine encounter.
When this happens the church enters into a new level of security, secure in knowing the Truth, secure in knowing that He has spoken, secure in knowing that He is there and speaking to His people.
We may not be on fire every week and at every meeting, but we should at least seek to be.
The Bible is the most exciting book in the entire world and we abuse God if we convey His truth to us as something on a par with the daily papers.
Possibly we need to go back to fundamentals, to the fact that we preach because we are called by God to do so. We are people who have had an encounter with God, and as a result of that we have a divine commission to declare His word.
2. Security through Preaching
Some of the issues within the actual act of preaching or teaching, that pertain to creating a secure church:
Comfort and/or Challenge
Many today have made an idol of personal peace and comfort.
To that end they would rather hear words of comfort than of challenge. They need both
When Jesus came he came to “comfort” his people.
Isaiah 61 prophecy read out by Jesus (Luke 4:17 -19) is all about coming to the poor, the broken hearted, the captives, the prisoners, those who mourn, to bring the blessing of God to them.
This is all about comfort. Comfort is all about bringing people into a place of security in God.
Preaching must not stop at that point; it must always have a dimension of calling for change, calling for growth, calling for going on in our relationship with God.
There must always be the challenge (directly or indirectly) to reach forward for something better than we have at the moment. The Christian life is not supposed to be static.
“God loves us just as we are, but He also loves us so much that He doesn't want us to stay as we are, He's got something better for us.”
Jesus constantly brought hope to people in bad places in life.
Jesus doesn't want us to remain in the prison we may find ourselves in.
He's come to deliver us out of it, whatever ‘it' may be.
Sometimes he may deliver us out of the circumstances, other times he may deliver us in them
The Pharisees of Jesus' day burdened the people with lots of “You shall not” commands in every area of life, without giving them the means to change.
Jesus came and brought hope for change by bringing a new relationship with God and subsequently a new power to achieve with God's wisdom what was humanly impossible.
Where we can, we should bring guidance or the means for reaching forwards.
3. Law and Grace
We need law and grace but we don't need legalism.
There are many things in Paul's writings which could be put forward as ‘laws', e.g. Eph 4:25 “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully…” i.e. you must not lie!
So how does this fit in with “I'm not under the law?” To answer that we need to note two things:
In other words 'behaviour' follows 'being'!
Our preaching and teaching needs, therefore, to emphasise first and foremost the wonder of God's grace: what He has done and who He has made us.
When there is genuine heart response to this there will be godly sorrow for wrong attitudes, wrong behaviour etc. and a desire to get clear of such things.
The purpose of the Law, therefore, is to drive you to Christ in your awareness of your sin (Rom 7:7) and to provide guidelines for godly living (e.g. as laid out in Paul's letters).
A right understanding of the ‘laws' or ‘rules' we find in the New Testament will involve two things:
Legalism is about how we apply these things:
Legalism is seen in many Christian quarters, often those most zealous for God
We take what are good spiritual disciplines and we lay them as burdens on people.
Because they seem to crop up so often, I want to cover the most common ones in what follows.
Note: The examples that follow are so important that the reader MUST read them on the second Preaching page. It is really impossible to see there significance if reduced to single lines.
Driving people by laying burdens of guilt upon them – “you ought to be praying for the lost, you ought to be reaching out to the lost because there's one lost soul dying every second” – may actually motivate people into action, but the action is then saturated with resentment and guilt, and ultimately that will backfire.
People who are working or serving with a negative resentful attitude will be like the servant of Jesus' parable who saw the Master as “a hard man” (Mt 25:24).
When we are preaching, teaching, prophesying, counselling or evangelising, we must never forget that the people to whom we are speaking are loved by God and precious to Him and this requires us to respect and honour them, even if they are in a state of unbelief or are in a place of disagreement with us.
The scriptures show us again and again that God uses imperfect people (and even an Ass - Num 22:21-) but that should not be an excuse to continue to accept bad ways of ministering.
The words may be right and the outcome may apparently be good, but if the means or way of speaking was less that gracious and less than godly we should not sit back and accept it.
4. Teaching Responsibility to Think, to Act and to Live
This is about enabling people to think for themselves.
Preachers often fluctuate between
Beware producing Christians who are unable to think
We need to equip our people to be questioners who will seek after the truth
The secure church teaches responsibility to think, to weigh up and to face concerns, to go beyond the surface and develop maturity of thinking that enables personal assessment and assessment of the church situation.
5. We will get it wrong
Because we're human beings we will not always get it right.
There will be bad days, there will be times when God's grace does not seem to flow through us freely, there will be blind spots in our understanding. How do we cope with that?
We have to realise that is what we are like. We would rather not be like it, we would rather be beyond criticism, but from time to time we have feet of clay - and God allows it to remind us that it is all of His grace.
6. And So?
The following cover the matters in this chapter:
• Am I confident and certain in the truth to be able to preach with grace and with authority?
• Do I take sufficient times out to be with God?
• Do I see comforting as part of my ministry as described in this chapter?
• Do I gently lead my people on in spiritual growth?
• Do I give manageable hope to those imprisoned by wrong things?
• Do I teach who we are in Christ before I teach instructions for living?
• Do I encourage by grace or by legalism (honestly)?
• Do I drive people or lift them by love?
• Do I respect and honour the people before me?
• Do I allow the truth & the Spirit to convict people or try and help God along?
• Do I see the people before me as God's precious possession, even with their faults and failings?
• Do I teach people to think for themselves & take responsibility for their lives?
• Can I cope gracefully with my own inadequacies in ministry?
• Can I cope gracefully with others' inadequacies?