Thursday, May 19, 2005
Preaching A Round The World
Adrian Warnock called out Jollyblogger, then he added thoughts here.
Jollyblogger answered the call and Adrian linked to it here.
There were great contributions made by The Gadabout, Unveiled Face and Crossroads.
Scotwise, in one of his daily encouragements, also added some interesting input, though he did not actually enter the fray.
Clearly, I have a great deal packed into this discussion other than strictly preaching. I want to look at several things in this post.
First I want to discuss if there really is a difference in salvation and sanctification. Without getting too heady here, let's just say salvation is "coming to Christ" and sanctification is "growing to maturity." In his post, Jollyblogger says this
I could at this time digress into a discussion of our modern evangelical propensity to divide evangelism and discipleship, but for now I'll just say that this is a very modern thing that is not biblical. I don't think the biblical writers had the same worries that we have about potential problems from improperly targeted messages.Boy there is a lot in there, and I think it is really important stuff. I got to know Adrian over a discussion of the simple gospel - a simple formulation of the good news of Christ, with which I had and have whole hearted agreement. But it is important to remember that we call people to transformation. The apostle Paul said
Phil 2:12 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
This would indicate that the reception of the gospel is not a one time event, but a lifetime journey. Too often preaching focuses on "answering the altar call." When I say that I believe Sunday morning preaching should be to the found, not the unfound, I mean simply that it should measure its success by other than answer to the altar call. That may happen, hopefully, that will happen, but I do not think that should be the aim.
I know people that answered an altar call and never come back. I know people that answer an altar call every week, but I never see any signs of change in them. The goal is to bring them there and move them on. There is a tyranny in any metric we use to judge success. Altar call response is an inadequate metric.
This is going to open up a while other can of worms, but I am not assured of the final destination of someone who has merely answered an altar call -- in whatever form that may have taken. Mere ascent to the gospel is, as best as I understand, insufficient to guarnatee one a place in God's kingdom. I am incapable of telling you what will (hey -- I'm a Calvinist), I just know that is not enough. That is the start of the journey to that place -- a journey only taken by grace, but it is a journey with no destination in this life.
When I say preaching should be about maturity, not evangelism, that is what I mean -- preaching should take/help us on the journey -- it should not lead us to a destination at which we may stop.
For my second point, I want to start with this quote from Paul Rees that Scotwise has at the beginning of the post linked above
"Revival and evangelism, although closely linked, are not to be confused. Revival is an experience in the Church; evangelism is an expression of the Church."The church has a lot to do. This quote emphasizes a distinction between just two of those things. It is after all the body of Christ and therefore, must carry out all aspects of Christ's ministry. Thus Paul talks continuously about all the different body parts (I Cor 12) and all the different roles (Romans 12)in a church. It takes the entire church to carry our the entire ministry of the church, which, as we just established, is to make mature Christians. Unveiled Face put it this way
One aspect I guess I could point out about this is that many people who complain about their preachers etc. could really be achieving a massive amount in this area through one-on-one or small group relationships. Just get out there and counsel people with the true knowledge of the Son of God!I agree with Mick here, but have to say that in my particular experience, preachers often encourage the kind of situation that he is arguing against.
Which leads me to my final point about what is the role of the preacher in the congregation. Let's start by asking if the preacher and the pastor are the same. I contend not necessarily. In some sense, this depends on your denomination. I am PCUSA, which means the Session is supposed to run the church, freeing the pastor to be a preacher. But let's be honest, very few Sessions are strong enough to make that model a reality. Some other denominations despense with the model altogether and just go ahead and call the pastor the head of the congregation. I guess what I am saying is that regardless of denominational affiliation, functionally, pastors end up with the same job -- organizing and leading the congregation. Filling the pulpit, preaching, is just one small part of that large job.
Most of my pastor friends feel called to preaching and end up frustrated at what a small part of their job it really is. Many of them feel ineffective because they do not get to do as much, or do it as well (time constraints) as they would like. I try to encourage all of them that by building up the congregation (this is not church growth, this is helping the congregation build maturity) they are in fact achieving their goal of adding to the Kingdom.
This also is what I mean when I say preach to the found, not the unfound, because in a very true sense, preaching to the found IS preaching to the unfound.
So what does "preaching to the found" mean? It means preaching the simple gospel not as a formulation, but in application. It means offering encouragement to reach for maturity, not stopping at mere ascent. It means preaching about more than that short laundry list of topics presented in Hebrews 6:1-3. It means preaching out of the Old Testament, maybe even the really hard stuff like Proverbs. It means daring to say that "Not everyone who says to [Christ], 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." It means risking that some will not come back to hear you preach again. It means taking Matthew 10:14 to heart everytime you wirte a sermon. It means...
Well, I could rant like this for a while, but I trust you get the message. We call people not to an endpoint, but to a journey, and then we must take the journey with them. That's preaching.