Thursday, 1 August 2013

Expository Preachers

One of the essential qualifications of expository preachers whose preaching station is within a congregational setting is surely toughness of hide to take the persistent criticism of spending too much time in the study and not spending enough time with the congregation. His whole week seems to be taken up with study.

Now it is important that a proper balance is reached if the relevance of the message to the congregation is not to suffer. A minister who divorces himself from his congregation is liable to become so bookish that his preparation and sermon delivery is lost on those to whom he was called to minister. Whilst the Word had its own inbuilt relevance, the minister must come between the relevance of the Word and the people to whom that word comes.
But the preacher must be well-disciplined so that he can take such criticism graciously, and go on with the ministry to which God has called him. If Christians want good preaching, they must be prepared to give their minister time and freedom to study so that he can feed their hungry hearts. Only when the preacher himself receives from God can he give to his people. If he does not take the time to feed his own soul, he will have nothing worthwhile to give to others. If he does not labour to prepare a good meal for his guests on Sundays, he cannot complain if they have no appetite for what he has for them! A well-prepared dish is most appetising; but an ill-prepared one, even though it has all the necessary ingredients, will turn them off! Preachers must pay the price for their preaching. They must keep themselves fresh.
Preparation for preaching is the most laborious thing the minister will do, therefore, it is so important that both people and pastor have a right grasp of what preaching is all about. Only then will they be able to submit themselves to the rigorous demands of that preaching.

Monday, 29 July 2013

NORWICH 'GAY PRIDE' DEMO - Christian Gospel Witness

The Norwich 'Gay Pride' demo is now an annual feature of city life, as in many other cities across the UK. Five of us gathered to make a Gospel witness against this unashamed carnival of perverted carnality.

Gentleman's Walk was teeming with people on this warm afternoon (Saturday, 27 July 2013). Arriving early, I noticed that the Charity Stall from which Norwich City Council ejected Norwich Reformed Church last year was being used by ‘Gay Pride’ personnel. Wandering over, I asked for a copy of their official pamphlet. I then offered my leaflets ‘Good News for Gays’ and ‘Jesus Christ, the Saviour We All Need’. Accepting the ‘exchange’, they seemed a little disconcerted. I smiled and said, “You need them, they will do you good. God bless you.” 

When the other brethren arrived, we gathered for prayer, asking the LORD to grant us faithfulness, wisdom, compassion, peace and courage.  

Police were evident in considerable numbers. We engaged in discussion with them. It has to be said that they were more threatening towards us than the gay marchers were. We were told by one officer that if we caused offence and distress we would be arrested. Will Harrison (church identity withheld) then asked, “Since I find gay demonstrators offensive and distressing, will you arrest them too?” No reply was made. Tony Cox (Surrey Chapel) challenged the strident attitude of this officer with his legal expertise, supported by Len Smeath (Norwich Reformed Church). It seems that the public parade of gay perversion is not considered offensive whereas Christian counter-witness is! Will Harrison was accompanied by his wife Laura and baby Elouise in this stand-off. 

Joining in, I said that the marchers had less cause to fear harassment from us than we from them. I asked the officer if he would arrest those who might harass us? Somewhat nervously, he replied that he would. On offering him copies of my leaflets, the officer said I would be arrested if these were distributed. So much for freedom of expression! When I said they were only available for enquirers, the visibly-irritated officer said I would be arrested even if they were displayed. Well, they were displayed - together with another leaflet 'Gay Pride' - but none of us were arrested!

As the several-hundred strong procession advanced with drums, whistles and circus-style antics, we informed the officers that we intended to go ahead of the procession at a distance of 30-40 yards, displaying our Gospel texts (see pics). Hundreds of bystanders watched as we advanced along the route - Len to my left, Tony to my right, and Will and his family with me in the centre. With little Elouise in her pushchair, we were making a family-based, biblical demonstration - ‘A little child shall lead them’ (Isa. 11: 6). Several police officers provided a buffer between us and the noisy marchers behind us.

The planned route took us past the market and the City Hall. Shamelessly displaying the City Council's decadence, a 'rainbow' drape stretched along the entire width of the building. On the balcony, the Lord Mayor, resplendent in his ceremonial robes waved to the crowd, supported by other members of the Council. It was a truly shameful display of official support. As we passed by beneath, I lifted my arm, and - despite the din - shouted “Shame upon you, shame upon you!”

Eventually, we and the main procession reached the Forum where a large crowd applauded them. The police kept between us and the marchers while the noisy celebration reached its climax. Providing evidence of today’s religious apostasy, Quakers and Unitarians were conspicuous among the marchers.  An Anglican-looking clergyman (Methodist? Roman Catholic?) was shamefully smiling. At one point, Tony and Len made their way to the end of the procession to display their Bible texts. In response to the Unitarian’s poster ‘Jesus loves you’, Len rightly said , “Yes Jesus loves them, but He hates their sin!” Turning his back, the man was not amused. It was tragic to see little children among the marchers. May the LORD protect them from sodomite wickedness!

In the end, the whole event seemed less aggressive than in previous years. We were able to make a visible witness, and a good quantity of leaflets were taken. Apart from the leading officer, his fellow officers were quite friendly and helpful towards us. If we are spared, another witness will be made next year (DV). In the wake of the Same-sex Marriage developments, only time will tell if our relatively-low key witness will be tolerated in the future. It would be worth it if only one soul was saved. We leave events to God and His sovereign and gracious purposes. May HE have mercy on our city and country.

Dr Alan C. Clifford
Pastor, Norwich Reformed Church