Puritan Gems

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elements Of Reformed Worship #7

Preaching The Word

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

"Preaching is broken...Why do I get to speak for 30 minutes and you don't?...A sermon is often a violent act, it's violence toward the will of the people who have to sit there and take it." (Doug Pagitt - Leader of the Emergent "Solomon's Porch".)

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 89

Q. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation. (Neh. 8:8, 1 Cor. 14:24–25, Acts 26:18, Ps. 19:8, Acts 20:32, Rom. 15:4, 2 Tim. 3:15–17, Rom. 10:13–17, Rom. 1:16)

In many of today's pragmatic churches, preaching is viewed as increasingly archaic, being either an optional part of worship, or something that snuck in amongst the throngs of church entertainers, hoping that a nugget of that Word might sneak into a few hearts along the way. This type of thing happens when the zeal for church growth over rides the need for truth. The deceptive part of "evangelism by entertainment" is that it does appear in individual cases to increase church attendance, but at what cost? Is merely an increase in church attendance the sign of a true conversion? A church that does not rely on the preaching of the Word has given up on "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16). Oddly enough, many such churches proclaim a strong desire to be "apostolic" in terms of Spiritual gifts and ecclesiology, but have forsaken the apostolic message and method of spreading that message. Preaching is not optional, nor it is a church sideshow, but rather a crucial part of worship, the means by which God has ordained to save the lost as well as feed the saved.

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says,"Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:14-17)

In order to fulfill his ministry, Paul charged Timothy to "preach the Word". It stands to reason that preachers who refuse to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" via the preached Word are not faithful in fulfilling their ministries. What a shame that the preaching of the Word has been abandoned by many churches in favor of fluffy, pragmatic messages on successful living! The Word that is preached must be the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). A good preacher will preach on the glories of Heaven, the horrors of Hell, giving admonishment as well as encouragement to the saints, all with equal effectiveness. He will "labor in Word and Doctrine" (1 Timothy 5:17), seeking to be orthodox, doing his best as an uninspired prophet to remove any error from his exposition by diligent study, holding fast to sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), and "rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15). A good preacher is not concerned with pleasing man, but rather God. (Galatians 1:10). As such, the hard truths about man's sinfulness and God's wrath cannot be ignored. It is God's will that people are saved through the folly of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21), not by skits, clowns, and concerts.

“The pastor is called upon to feed the sheep. (Now that may seem quite obvious.) He is called upon to feed the sheep even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it in Goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness”. (William Still, The Work of the Pastor).

We live in a day when a person can send a $25 check to a web company and become an ordained minister. This is merely a symptom of a larger problem. The expectations, even among Christians, of preachers and the words they preach are at an all time low. However, the Word that is preached faithfully, is not only "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16), but is also "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Those who insist on the practice of "bait and switch" entertainment evangelism would do well to meditate on these passages, and renew their confidence in both the Word and the preaching of that Word as the effective, Biblical model of both evangelism and worship.

Recommended Reading: With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship by Hart and Muether

No comments: