preach the word

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

2 Timothy 4:1-2

I’m not sure what I’m hearing from some alleged Christian ministers, but I’m thankful for the many who attempt to do what is called for in this great passage. I personally don’t want to hear something new, unheard of by anyone before. What I want to hear is the word preached, God’s inscripturated word, Scripture, what we call the Bible, the heart of that being the gospel, the good news fulfilled in Jesus.

We don’t need anything fancy. Just the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s word which has a depth and beauty all its own, and leads us to God’s Word: Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less. In and through Jesus.

“preach the word”

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

2 Timothy 4:1-2

We need the simple word of God, period. Whenever I hear something other than that from a Christian teacher or preacher, I completely shut down. We don’t need anything fancy or new, in fact we should run from all such. And we especially need to beware of applications of God’s word, which really have nothing to do with it. Alas, many hear such and equate it with God’s word, God’s truth.

Does God’s word, Scripture have enough, or do we have to add more? We know the answer, but our thoughts and actions often betray us. We want more. Oftentimes the reason we want more is because we haven’t got into the word ourselves, so that we don’t appreciate its fullness and power.

Of course the written word leads us to the Word himself, Jesus. But that shouldn’t minimize the importance of Scripture. It is more than just a guide, certainly not just another guide. It is God’s word written. We best take full heed of it. In and through Jesus.

Billy Graham: a faithful servant of Christ

Christianity Today has an excellent issue on the life of Billy Graham. I consider it a must read even if you’re just into US history, because of his often intimate relationship with twelve US presidents. And all the more so if you’re a Christian, especially with spiritual roots in God’s working through Billy’s ministry.

Between my mother’s witness and prayers, and the preaching of Billy Graham, the Holy Spirit brought deep conviction of sin and conversion of life through the new birth. And I am indebted to the ministry of the Mennonite church I was raised in, as well. I used to not want to hear Billy’s preaching, and yet I was captivated by it. I came to Christ, committing my life to God because of his death on the cross on that October afternoon in the milk bottle wash room at the dairy. And I more or less knew then, and know even more now the powerful impact of Billy’s preaching of the gospel on my life through the work of the Holy Spirit.

If Billy was active in ministry today, as he was for decades, you can be sure that he would not be known as either a Republican or  Democrat, liberal or conservative. And fundamentalist churches of varying degrees refused to participate in his campaigns because he would partner with Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. I remember all of that well. I believe Billy was right, and we have good fruit from that, as well as other roots contributing to God’s work in that, I think of the writings of Karl Barth, and the Second Vatican Council.

I am thankful to God for the life and ministry of Billy Graham. And I look forward to meeting him someday. Until then, we want to press on by the same Holy Spirit, and be faithful to Christ and to the gospel, to the very end. In and through Jesus.

accountability

Roger Olson has an interesting post entitled Evangelical Superstars and Why They Fall. It may be disappointing in its simplicity, but it may well hit the nail on the head. The big problem as he sees it: lack of accountability.

Olson touches on something of the heart of the problem in terms of both the unquestioning trust often given to leaders and how power corrupts. There needs to be ongoing accountability. We all need that, but particularly those in high positions of leadership and responsibility.

Another important factor is something not confined to evangelical circles. But it especially can be a problem among us evangelicals. We tend to put the pastor on a pedestal and we make the sermon the most important part of a service or church gathering. My own experience in this is that unless the church was good in the music part, I was more than ready to hear the message. Or even give it. The other stuff was mere preliminary to that. The sermon is in the spotlight and often dictates whether or not visitors will continue to come. And because of that the preacher being the pastor tends to have extraordinary power, provided they can give a good message.

Sermons are important and a gifted pastor is vital to the health of a church. They need not be charismatic in personality, but God’s gift for pastoring which includes teaching needs to be on them. But we would be far better off if instead of the sermon in the preaching of the word being pretty much the end all of most evangelical churches, it would instead be one major part. In fact I would prefer that it be a major part of the main thrust: to keep Jesus Christ and the gospel of God’s grace and kingdom come in him front and center. Liturgically and in everything else. Instead too often the church is driven by whatever the sermon might be and that is driven by one person, the pastor. So that everything centers around that and around them. Churches which major in both word and sacrament I would think tend to do better in this way. But to get back to the main point of this post, that does not necessarily mean that proper accountability is taking place.

The bottom line whatever other variables is to recognize and be committed to ongoing accountability. Not in terms of popularity as to whether or not the pastor is making people happy. But in terms of what is spelled out in scripture as to qualifications for leaders in ministry. Perfection is not the standard, but maturity and growth. Can we say that we can follow the leader even as they follow Christ? Are they following Christ? Of course that involves ongoing humility in confession of sin. The best leaders will be transparent and quick to confess their sins. If we’re all to be accountable, looking out for each other, leaders ought to show the way in that. On some level everyone can participate in that, but there ought to be leadership in place in churches, including godly lay members who can help in that way.

Not an easy subject, but an important one for us to grapple with.

 

preach the word

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

If there’s one thing I want to hear from a sermon (or when I preach one) I want to hear the word of God proclaimed and taught. And whatever text we are in, I want to hear that text, and nothing more and nothing less. For those of my generation, I’m not referring necessarily to “expository preaching,” that is, going verse by verse, line by line, and sometimes almost word by word. For some that might work well as at least one of the main ways they share God’s word. It can be delivered in a number of ways, with always an accent on reading the text and actually letting the text speak for itself.

Too often we might import this or that idea, or better, a teaching from some other part of scripture into the text. We need to let the text speak as it does, if we are going to hear it as it is, and receive the needed word from God.

I appreciate that our church uses a lectionary which, if I remember right takes us through at least most all of scripture every four years. We need all of scripture, the entire witness, whether we can make heads or tails of it or not. We need to let each part have its say. And taking in the whole, we may end up with some kind of coherent understanding of the message of God in Christ. Of course scripture leads us to Christ. If it doesn’t do that in our preaching, then we are missing the boat. Breaking the bread of life means helping the hearers feed on Christ. The Spirit is present in the preaching to bring us into the presence of Christ and God’s will in him.

I am thankful to be part of a church where the pastors do this. Any of us may falter here and there, somehow bringing something that is not helpful into the mix. But God  knows our heart, and if its our desire and prayer for his word to get through, in spite of ourselves, and by the filling of the Spirit (yes, we need to be dependent on the filling of the Spirit both in our preaching and for the hearers, that the Spirit would minister to each of them), God will speak through his word.

We are told earlier in the same letter quoted above:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

That must be our aim. We who teach or proclaim God’s word (or our pastors, I’m not a pastor by the way, though I think I’m still one at heart to some extent, and I still do preach and teach a bit) must aspire to be servants of God, people given to the ministry of the word and prayer. That will certainly keep us humble as before God and people we endeavor to share nothing of ourselves (even when we may share from our own lives) wanting to hear nothing except from God in and through Christ. As we together in Jesus seek to live out God’s will in and for the world.