Monday, October 17, 2016

"Giving a little talk" just doesn't cut it....

The preacher’s task is to declare what God has said, explain the meaning, and establish the implications so that no one will mistake its relevance.” Alistair Begg

  If later today, you received a phone call from a good friend and they said to you, “I’ve got something fantastic for us to do this week!” As you’re thinking of all the wonderful things they might be about to suggest, they say, “There’s this new preacher in Milwaukee. I thought it would be fantastic if we went to hear him preach.” So what would your response be?
  Would you suddenly remember you needed to give your hamster a bath? Maybe tell them, “I’ve got a big project and can’t. The ceiling tiles in my kitchen need to be recounted. We were debating the number last night and I must prove to my wife I’m right!” Or how about, “I’m trying to be more sensitive so this week I’m observing National ‘Don't Go Out At All Week.’ You haven't heard of that? Really, it’s very popular in Brussels right now!”
  Last Sunday we worked through the feeding of the 5,000 and just prior to that miracle, the interruption by the huge crowd. Remember, Jesus was on an “Us Day” with the disciples, but somehow the crowds learned Jesus was in the area and began to gather.
  So you’re with Jesus, you see this great ministry need, what do you do? What do we think Jesus should do? Organize a new ministry to take care of people? Teach them to care for themselves? At the very least start healing those who need healing (which Jesus does). Yet, it’s all secondary for Jesus. Jesus’ first priority is to preach. It’s to teach. It’s His number one ministry and primary focus: “When the crowds learned it, they followed Him, and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God”
  To be honest, as a preacher it feels a bit disingenuous to talk about the importance of preaching. Yet, this is what the Bible clearly teaches.
  We discovered that when we were in Luke 4. After a big day of healing with record crowds, the disciples come looking for Jesus so they can have another big day. Remember what happened? “And the people sought Jesus and came to Him, and would have kept Him from leaving them, but Jesus said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.’ And Jesus was preaching in the synagogues of Judea” (vss. 42-44).
  But preaching is not the focus of ministry of the typical church. It’s the band. It’s the programs. It’s the children’s ministry or youth group. Rarely is it the preaching. We may think drama or films are the way to reach people, to grow the church, but that’s not what the Bible says.
  Think about this. You have a Bible. You can read. Can’t you just study it for yourself? Wouldn’t you do better in a discussion group where you can ask questions and all give input? Preaching seems so old and moldy.
  Yet, preaching was the focus of Jesus’ ministry. We can’t sidestep that fact. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching, to quote 1 Corinthians, because God’s Word has power. It is not the messenger; it’s the Message. God has chosen Spirit empowered preaching to communicate His truth and bring glory to Himself.
  Famed Canadian theologian, J.I. Packer, insightfully observed: “We shall never perform a more important task than preaching. If we are not willing to give time to sermon preparation, we are not fit to preach, and have no business in the ministry at all.”
  Too many pastors are CEOs. Some spend the bulk of their time in counseling or head up the local coffee clutch. Perhaps they focus on visitation, being in homes, convalescent centers or hospitals. Did you know the Bible never teaches any of that is the Pastor’s calling or responsibility? Just a side note, Scripture teaches the Deacons are to do the bulk of ministerial care of the church family (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).
  Scripture teaches that the pastor is to be a man of the Word and prayer. So if a pastor does not study, if he’s not faithfully in the Word, he should be terminated. He’s failed his biblical calling. Please do not come on Sundays to hear the preacher. Come to hear God’s Word taught. And if God leads you to some other part of the country, look for a church where preaching is central to that ministry. That’s a biblical ministry.
  Jesus knew, much like today, the crowds came seeking other things, in Luke 9, healing. It was miracles they sought; it was divine truth they desperately needed. Preaching is important because God says it’s important—in His God-breathed Word through the Apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1-5). He says that preaching the Word and hearing the Word are essential for God's people.
  Preaching then is not just a good talk. The purpose is not to be inspiring or even funny. It’s to help us see Jesus. It’s to help us know God. It’s why at Grace we are committed to what is known as systematic, expository preaching. Typically, we work through a book of the Bible, verse by verse…or at least portion by portion. The reason we do that is so we have the context of what God has written for us. It also makes us study some of the tougher, even uncomfortable passages.
  One of the central acts of worship is hearing the Word preached.  John Calvin said that where the Word is not preached and heard, there is no church. To be the Body of Christ and to worship God, we need preaching.
  Yet, a neglected element of faithfulness today, often neglected by preachers is time. A preacher who does not commit the time to study is unfaithful to his calling. Like a great meal, a good sermon requires time to prepare. John Stott in his book for preachers, Between Two Worlds, suggests the preacher needs at least twelve hours to prepare a sermon. Most preachers probably need more time than that and a healthy congregation will encourage the pastor to take that time. 
  Jesus’ and the early church’s example remind us that preaching is vital. It’s the power of God unto salvation. It needs to be valued by the Christian community as a family values food.  Preachers must use the best of their time and abilities to nourish their flocks with the Word of God. It’s what God has called them to do!

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