Wednesday, January 21, 2009

thoughts on GOOD preaching and conviction!

I had brought up yesterday my first exposure to church life as a young boy of 11yrs. I left something out which i find very interesting. As far as the life and study habits of our Pastor (Nigel) this man was blameless, a very strong (young) brother in the Lord. I remember times after church playing football (our soccer) with the guys at some park including the Pastor. I don't mean an event, just sporadic and frequent times of getting together. I think it was the Pastor who taught me to play Chess, and he loved playing with his daughters. Despite the familiarity we had with him and the amount of time spent doing things with him around, when he entered the pulpit it was TOTALLY different. First off he believed in the 1hr prayer before service (SIDE NOTE: did you know there was a whole ministry started based on Jesus asking the disciples 'could you not pray one hour', that would encourage churches to do at least that--ANYWAYS).
As a 11yr old boy I hated the preaching time, i would go to the front every single Sunday (until the Pastor discouraged such flippant attitudes). I used to think he was ALWAYS talking about me, I was convinced that GOD had just told him everything that i did that week, I was fearful of that time (to this feeling my mother and probably my sister (she was about 8) would agree).
Now that's what i call good preaching! Paul Washer spoke of Leonard Ravenhill in the same way.
Consider this: i was 11 and very rebellious yet this captured me, whereas many young people today sit in churches half-asleep. You know it's a problem in America when the parents don't find it unusual that their children are bored to tears with preaching (i say this more to point out the fact that they probably aren't saved). We should seek, as Spurgeon did to reach EVERYONE who has the ability to understand. We should pray for such an anointing in our services that people come in with a Holy Awe.
One of the first very SOLID and reformed writings that i ever read was the famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards "sinners in the hands of an angry God". I was BLOWN AWAY by this sermon, not because i thought it too strong or extreme. In one sense i was excited and rejoiced about such preaching, but what SHOCKED me above everything else, the very FIRST thought that came to mind was "HOW IN THE WORLD IS THIS POPULAR?" I could not understand preachers who referenced or quoted this, yet they preached like wimps! I used to think that the problem in the 'church' was a lack of knowledge; 'if only they'd listen to this guy, or if only they read this book' and then you find out they DID and you're confused, you think "are you sure you listened to that message?, are you certain we are talking about the same book?"
Please hear me in this; How can you justify enjoying the powerful and searching preaching of DEAD men, yet you don't really like the one's who are alive? Times really haven't changed, the best preachers aren't always popular among other preachers, Spurgeon wasn't, Edwards wasn't, Tozer wasn't, Whitfield wasn't. It's also interesting to note what preachers influenced some of the more known people today, and then to see how they don't chose those type of people to preach in their conferences.
Let's face it some of the so-called best preachers didn't always preach expositional and through the bible. I thought it hilarious when Lloyd-Jones in his Preaching and Preachers mentioned how silent men are when it comes to mentioning SPurgeon when they talk about how to preach good. Prince of Preachers? What marked Spurgeon, did he lack depth and doctrine because he often preached like a storyteller, he could take a passage and give no setting, use it as a spring board totally off it's context and be considered great?????!!!!!! Well what then made him great if he broke so many cardinal rules of preaching? He still preached truth, regardless of the text he was DOCTRINAL, regardless of the passage he was ALWAYS preaching SYSTEMATIC theology, he held high the doctrines of Grace, he fully grasped the means to reach men, and God used him to reach countless men, women and children.
Why could he preach like this and not fall into what many do when they preach topically? One safety proposed for expositionally thru books preaching is that you won't just preach the topics you like; generally this IS true, but as i've said before a preacher who wants to avoid things can just pick and chose what he will emphasize by reading longer passages and going faster. So then why did he NOT fail in this way, why do some not fail in this way? BECAUSE Spurgeon was a man in pursuit of God. Spurgeon fed his own soul, he read widely, he read deeply, he soaked in the scriptures and as a result he was not blinded by a love for one aspect of theology. You can take a Spurgeon sermon, and write a book, there are many times that you could add tons of scripture because he's speaking so biblically.
I do love expositional preaching, i do think a good model (certainly the safest) is to preach through books of the bible; but i don't think it should hold the preeminence it does today, not in such a way that makes anything else 'bad' preaching. Honestly how long will it take to go through the bible? If that's the goal then preach longer messages and more than once a week (that would be my preference). I've also heard preachers say that this helps them study, a great way to be more biblically balanced; do you realize what they are saying, it's a terrible admission. So you search the scriptures because you are a preacher who preaches thru books of the bible? How in the world are you going to encourage people in the pew to study if that's your incentive? Preacher let me ask this; are you familiar with the scriptures? Do you know the word? Not are you up to date on the latest theological controversies going on, not have you mastered Greek, but DO YOU KNOW the WORD? Above all, the point i want to make is that good preaching is not a mode of preaching, it's not adhering to certain rules, but adhering to the truth of scripture. For one thing the average church member will not notice the difference in what may impress a seminary class; can you engage them, is there authority and is there passion in your preaching ? Have you lifted up Christ? Most critiques i've heard of sermons are absolutely ridiculous, they are just nit picking about silly cosmetic issues. How in the world can someone bind a preachers heart, by telling him if he inserts the gospel into a message that has nothing to do with the subject, that's bad. So your sermon isn't pretty, so you went on a couple rabbit trails, so you went past the 40min mark, so you didn't have 3 points, I can tell you this: God does NOT care, you will NOT be judged by that, you will be judged by whether you taught TRUTH, whether you sheepishly AVOIDED offending anyone, whether you APOLOGIZED for things the you shouldn't have (because people frowned), and whether you really cared about the sheep.

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