|Vol. 13 No. 10 October 2011||
Mark N. Posey
In the book Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century by John R.W. Stott, Stott gives, what he calls, the “Theological Foundation for Preaching.” Stott, an Evangelical, provides noteworthy information for both the preacher and church.
Preachers must have a conviction about God. Three affirmations about God are necessary: God is, God has acted and God has spoken to reveal Himself to man. Therefore, what God has spoken is imperative!
Preachers must have a conviction about Scripture. This includes three things: (1) Scripture is God’s Word written. (2) God still speaks through what He has spoken. His Word is still relevant and applicable to us today. (3) God’s Word is powerful. It is able to accomplish what God intended for it to accomplish in man.
Preachers must have a conviction about the church. The church is the creation of God by His Word. The church did not give us the Bible nor is it the authority behind truth; it is, however, the total number of redeemed following the Bible. Furthermore, God “maintains and sustains it, directs and sanctifies it, reforms and renews it through the same Word.”
Preachers must have a conviction about preaching. Preaching is expounding the sacred text. This type of preaching has benefits: (1) It sets us limits. It restricts us to the sacred text, not secular literature or our own opinions. (2) It demands integrity. “Not everybody is persuaded of this,” says Stott. “It is commonly said that the Bible can be made to mean anything one wants – which is true ONLY if one lacks integrity.” The Scriptures must be allowed to interpret themselves – each one throwing light on the other, pulling out of the text only what it teaches. (3) It identifies the pitfalls we must avoid at all costs – two of these being forgetfulness and disloyalty. “The forgetful expositor loses sight of his text by going off on a tangent and following his own fancy. The disloyal expositor appears to remain with his text, but stains and stretches it into something quite different from its original and natural meaning.” (4) It gives us confidence to preach. Since preachers are expounding God’s Word with integrity and honesty, they can be very bold and “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
Stott, John R.W. W.B. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.
What are you willing to lose for Christ? It is really not my question, but His. He issued the challenge a number of times during His ministry, but perhaps none is as strong a statement as the one found in Matthew 10:39, when he says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This came at the end of a rather long speech to His disciples just before He sent them out into the world to teach His message of the kingdom. In the speech, He told them where to go, what to do, and then warned them that the message may not be received well. In essence, Christ revealed that the road was going to be a difficult one, and they should not be surprised when they were betrayed, slandered and make enemies even in their own households.
At the same time, He empowered them with the knowledge that they were not be alone, but the Father in heaven had even the very hairs of their heads numbered and would more than take care of them on their journey. Furthermore, they would be rewarded in full for their efforts.
What I want you to notice, however, about this wonderful section of Scripture is the list of people to whom they were supposed to go and to minister. They were forbidden, at least at this time, to go to the Gentiles (10:4-5), but others they were to seek out and teach. Who? The lost, the sick, the dying, the outcast and the dangerous (demon possessed). It is no wonder that Christ gave them warning. It is no wonder Christ spoke of this mission in terms like of “losing your life.” These folks were not the upper crust or the middle class or even, in many cases, the lower class. They were the lowest of the low, and yet the ones in most need of hearing the Gospel.
This has not changed. The church should not be a collection of pious elites who simply gather to stroke each other’s spiritual egos, but rather a group of believers who gather to figure out how they can best lay down their lives to reach these same groups, which still exist in abundance today. Do not get me wrong; many have no problem “laying down their lives”; they just want an adjustable, pillow-top, king size luxury laden work to lie on. The moment the slander or the betrayal or the making of enemies (especially in their own homes) begins, is the moment they trade that pillow of stone for something a little cushier.
So, again, what are you willing to lose for Christ? Are you willing to lose enough to embrace the radical idea of mixing with the lost, sick, dying, outcast and dangerous? Are you willing to go to the places and be with the people from whom others shy away? You do not have to go far to find them.