Thursday, October 28, 2010

Preaching to the Saints (4)

The final part of my talk on Preaching to the Saints, given at the PTS Preachers Conference on Saturday 16th October.

III. How we should preach to the saints

1. Before we preach anything to the saints we first of all need to preach it to ourselves

The task of preaching is not simply to give doctrinal instruction to the church, but to enable the people of God to understand and feel the truth of Scripture in order to practice it. Preaching will not be a lecture. It will be a living engagement between the preacher and the congregation. The preacher is to think and feel his way into the text so that his preaching becomes a living performance of the message. This does not mean that the preacher "play acts" his sermon. But he must reflectively apply the sermon to himself before he preaches it to others. The preacher will be dramatically involved in the proclamation of the gospel. He will think it, feel it, live it. How can a man preach effectively on the love of God at Calvary if he has no theological understanding of the cross as an atoning sacrifice? How can he preach the sufferings of Christ without being emotionally involved? As Bunyan once put it, "I preached what I smartingly did feel." How can a man preach a message of forgiving love unless his life is shaped by the gospel? Preaching should be an enactment of the drama of redemption - a revelatory event where God's Word is proclaimed to his people in the life-transforming power of the Spirit.

This is what John Owen had some searching things to say on this,
Preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit, which men so much quarrel about, is nothing less than the evidence in preaching of unction... No man preaches that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart; for unless he finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others. It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our hearts to preach is to be transformed into the power of these truths: or to find the power of them, both before, in fashioning our minds and hearts, and in delivering them, that we may have benefit; and to be acted with zeal for God and compassion for the souls of men. A man may preach every day in the week and not have his heart engaged once.

2. We should preach to the saints because we love them and have prayed for them

The task of the pastor-teacher is to preach the Word, but that is not our only task. It is not even our main task, Acts 6:4. Love the people. Engage in pastoral visitation. Get to know your people and let them see that you care for them. Let your preaching be informed by what you know of your people with all their trials and temptations. But don’t use what you have found out in a pastoral visit as ammunition for Sunday’s sermon. If you do that they won’t open up to you again. The people of God will let you get away with a lot, Sundays when the sermon falls flat etc, if they know that you love them and that you pray for them. Like Paul, may we be able to say, “the love of Christ constrains us”. 2 Cor 5:14.

3. We should seek to be as interesting and engaging as we possibly can

While I have emphasised that we must preach biblical doctrine, I don’t mean that we should serve up unreconstructed dollops of Berkhof. Our preaching should be accessible and engaging. Work out a clear and easy to follow structure. Include stories, anecdotes and illustrations not for their own sake, but to illuminate the truth. Even use humour when appropriate. Unless we are engaging our people so that we keep their attention, we aren’t doing them any good at all. Maintaining eye contact will help. Don’t read your sermon verbatim. Look ‘em in the eye and preach!

4. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to preach to the saints

In our preaching we must consciously depend upon the work of the Holy Spirit. As Spurgeon ascended the pulpit steps at the Metropolitan Tabernacle,  he repeated the words of the creed, “I believe in the Holy Ghost”. It is not enough simply to expound God's Word. If preaching is to do anything, the Holy Spirit must be at work in both preacher and congregation. This is why the New Testament does not see preaching simply in terms of an accurate declaration of the truth, but a Holy Spirit empowered event (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 1 Peter 1:12).

The Spirit's empowering presence enables preachers to proclaim the Lord Jesus with boldness, liberty and life-transforming effectiveness. His presence makes preaching an event where the God of the gospel is encountered in all the fullness of his grace and power.

That is what we need when we preach the Word of God to the people of God.

1 comment:

Jonathan Hunt said...

And wot a gud talk it wuz. This Guy dude is well gud at talkin and stuff.

And seriously folks, if you meet the criteria and missed the conference, make sure you are there next year. Entirely worth it.