Saturday, 20 July 2013

Preachers Inadequately Trained

Dr Henry Drummond thinks that seminaries are doing an inadequate job in the training of preachers because, firstly, teachers have so given themselves to the historico-critical method that it has suddenly undermined the authority of the Word of God. Preachers, and/or their professors, now do not have confidence in the Scriptures, therefore they do not believe that the unfolding of the Word of God is where the power of preaching really is. 

I commenced my ministerial training in 1975 in what is now Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. During a conversation with a friend this past week, he indicated to me that in the College there does not seem to be any training on preaching. I informed him that when I was there all those years ago, we had a full lecture by the Professor of Practical Theology whose responsibilities included training us how to preach, was given on how to fold a communion cloth. It doesn't get much worse than that! But no training is given to trainee ministers on how to do the single most important task in their calling.

While it is important to have some knowledge of the mechanics of sermon preparation and delivery, these are clearly not the vital issues.  You could train a monkey how to do these tasks. What is vitally important is this: has the man received a clear and discernible calling from God to the Christian ministry? Does he have the requisite gifts for this task? Is he passionate about this work? Does he know what needs to be preached even if he as yet does not know how to preach?

Secondly, the homiletics departments of seminaries have generally failed to emphasise expository preaching. Since Fosdick, life situation preaching has been emphasised. The climate in many congregations today is such that it dictates a low priority of preaching, where preaching is not seen as significant in ministry at all. So often, Christians prefer to sit in judgment on the preaching, and even say such things as this: "if a man cannot say what he has to say in 15-20 minutes, he shouldn't be a preacher." Today, preaching must be ultra-brief and go over us and hit our neighbour. This anti-preaching climate has a destructive effect on the preacher himself, for his very call is under question, his raison d’ĂȘtre is challenged. And if such a climate tends to destroy the preacher, then the congregation has little or no chance of surviving. What many congregations want today is not a preacher of the Word of God but an office manager, (Ravenhill).

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Preaching is Gospel Proclamation

Preaching must be THE issue for the minister. "The whole basis of our spiritual life and our church life is that we respond to what God has done. The essence of preaching is the proclamation of what God has done; therefore if we are to have experience with God, both individually and corporately, it is going to be the basis of responding to the knowledge of what God has done, which in one form or another, must come from proclamation. Preaching is, therefore, fundamental in the church life and therefore should have a high priority in the life of the pastor," (Dr S. Briscoe). All of the spiritual life is simply a response to God, Who has revealed himself through His Word and through His messenger, the preacher.
Therefore proclamation is of vital importance and an essential ingredient in the worship of God. Praising God and preaching His Word are essential to true worship. Through God-owned preaching, sinners and saints alike meet with the living God. In the word, believers experience fellowship with their Lord and with each other. Take away the proclaimed Word, and little else remains. The Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God states,
“Preaching of the Word, being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him. In the Presbyterian Church, the sermon is the climax of our church's worship services.”

Preaching is not a Profession

"Preaching is not a profession; it is an obsession, and a passion. And if it isn't, a man should not preach," says Dr L. Ravenhill. It is the key to any church and to any pastorate. Where the preaching fails, all else fails; but where the preaching is raised to its proper place and priority in the mind of both minister and congregation, everything else is raised thereby. It is the central aspect of the church's life and mission. Ministers must never think of preaching as a mere adjunct, a duty that has to be performed, a part of their professional responsibility. It should be their very life, their obsession, their passion. To preach the Gospel should be the one thing they live to do above all else! He must burn to do it week in and week out. He must preach, or his heart will burst. 

Jeremiah speaks with deep feeling when he talks about God's Word in his heart like a burning fire, shut up in his bones, (Jer.20:9). He says that he is weary of holding it in, indeed he cannot! He must preach the word, or burn up. His burning prophetic vocation compelled him to testify concerning covenant spirituality, despite all opposition from his beloved fellow countrymen, (R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah, Tyndale Press, Leicester, UK, 1973:113). Jeremiah did not regard himself as a professional prophet. To him, preaching was a categorical imperative. He must preach or die! His attempts not to do so merely wearied him out.
The true preacher knows that his work is an obsession and a passion; with Paul he can say, "Woe is unto me if I do not preach the Gospel,"(1 Cor.9:16).