Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preaching an ‘Acceptable’ Message

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

~1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (TNIV).

“Didn’t like the message or the preacher—not enough in it for me...” Sound familiar? We might restrain ourselves against going ballistic at the person who proudly declares this, for their folly has chastened them to the corner painted in spiritual pride.

It is clear when it comes to the teaching of the things of God that there are two responsibilities: the speaker’s responsibility and the listener’s.

The Speaker’s Responsibility

A faith that rests on human wisdom is a shallow and bad faith, no matter how good it sounds. And there are plenty of snake-oil salespeople out there selling the ‘good oil’ that’s leading people down the garden path toward eventual calamity.

Not the preacher of God, however.

Though they mightn’t light up the stage with splendour and charisma, so long as they’re preaching Christ and him crucified—and they’re living a life commending the resurrection faith—they’ll do okay by both God and their parishioners.

Oswald Chambers says,

“The real fasting of the preacher is not from food, but rather from eloquence, from impressiveness and exquisite diction, from everything that might hinder the gospel of God being presented.”

Bells and whistles and ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ are glorifying the preacher and not God, when especially God only is to be awed. This quote of Chambers’ is very much what we could imagine hearing from the great A.W. Tozer; his greatness made real because he rejected his own plaudits post haste whenever they spoke of ‘greatness’ like this; an abject blight on God.

Preachers—good ones—are not drawing attention to themselves and their fine diction from the pulpit.

If they’re criticised, or even receive ambivalence, for preaching plainly, especially when they preach repentance, God himself is aggrieved!

The Listener’s Responsibility

People need to arrive at church or wherever they ‘hear’ the message these days—even over Facebook—with ‘ears’ to listen.

It’s no good anyone not getting a scrap of good out of biblical or spiritual teaching. That smacks of spiritual pride to me. I don’t care who is speaking—we can all learn something, even if it’s via the way we’re listening; the Spirit of God working in us, “dividing soul and spirit, joints from marrow” as it searches our inner heart on issues, quite apart from, but through, the material preached (Hebrews 4:12).

The Spirit’s Power Uncorked

Human sin and personal accountability are at the very core of the constructs of our faith. When pastors and preachers turn from this formula—convicting, challenging, urging and encouraging at the personally-relevant level—focussing mainly on peripherals like “corrupt societal influences” or “church growth,” for instance, to the exclusion of the cross, they forget that our faith must always be cross-centred.[1]

When the cross is no longer central—implicitly or explicitly—to every message preached in the Christian church, the Spirit’s power evaporates and the church becomes as a result slowly irrelevant.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary – 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), pp. 59-61.

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