Saturday, 17 August 2013

Ministerial Godliness and Powerful Preaching

A life of piety, purity and personal devotion is indescribably important to the man of God who would preach powerfully. Prayer is also crucial. "If you want to know how popular church is, go on a Sunday morning; if you want to know how popular the preacher is, go on Sunday evening; but if you want to know how popular God is, go to the prayer meeting," (Ravenhill). No man will preach with unction without prayer and an atmosphere of prayer which hangs in the air when a man studies and preaches. 

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is also essential. Dr Wayne Detzler, "This is an obvious invasion of the Holy Spirit on the preaching process." S. Briscoe said, "Unction is clearly the relationship of the preacher to the Holy Spirit. It means to have a healthy balance between doing your homework and being prepared and yet at the same time recognising that unless the fire falls from heaven, then it was all in vain. "This is a good balance to strike. We need to preach with dependence upon the power of God, and of a recognition of our own need of that power. It is possible to prepare exemplary sermons with studied correctness, and yet preach them without the fire of God being upon them. Such 'dead orthodoxy' is a profanation of true preaching. How we need to lean heavily upon, submit to, and depend upon the Spirit's ministry as we declare the wonderful Word of the Lord. 

Ravenhill warns against trying to work up an atmosphere through singing, testimonies, lighting effects, etc. This can be done to the detriment of the work of God! When the Spirit comes upon a preacher and congregation, He comes as an act of sovereign bestowal on the part of our sovereign and gracious God and Father. We cannot force God to meet with us, but we can ask God to do so.
There is also the power of the Scripture as it explodes in the lives of both minister and congregation. Richard Baxter spoke of planting time-bombs in the hearts of his hearers that will go off at God's appointment. Unction comes in the unique power of the Word of God. The whole ministry must be "bathed in prayer,"(Briscoe). James Denney wrote, "The preacher's peril is the peril of coming to men in word only, saying things which he does not feel, and which they will not feel..." (Thes.p.48). Criswell argues that education per se does not enable a man to preach with power, (though it is a very good servant to that man). The three things which he says are needed are prayer, preparation, and the endeavour to win souls to Christ through the Gospel.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Churchmen and Terrorists

Churchmen are notorious for using softly softly tactics on republicans but seem to be totally unbalanced when it comes to their criticisms of their own flocks. These 'social gospellers' are the darlings of the establishment, and their analysis is taken almost without question.

However, the churches are not so quick to give support to the victims of terrorist violence, at least not at institutional level. Ministers 'on the ground' may play their part when their help is required. But social gospelling church establishments know on which side their bread is buttered and when they go 'cap in hand' to politicians who were either actively involved in terrorism and others who now support these terrorists and keep them in office, they have lost any voice they might otherwise have had.

Our country is in a very sad state because our churches have lost the plot altogether. Instead of pursuing Gospel matters, they prefer rather to persecute Gospel ministers. And when Gospel ministers are persecuted by their churches, may the Lord have mercy on us all, for we dare not ask Him for justice!

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Evangelical Climate Today

The evangelical climate today has been permeated by existentialism, and people seek experiences continually. When there is a mind-set that is experience-orientated, there is a necessary downgrading of anything propositional! The Bible is propositional, as is great preaching, says Dr Henry Drummond. Existentialism is one of the factors that have made the charismatic movement so successful, he says. All that many people want today when they come to worship is to have a spiritual experience.
The music that is used today is designed for this very purpose. It is chosen to have an affect on those who sing or hear it. It touches the emotions and has a conditioning effect on those who participate in such events. There is a tendency to be repetitive in which verses and choruses are sung over and over again.  Very often the theology in such 'worship songs' leaves a lot to be desired. At times it is misleading - but it has the desired effect on the worshippers. To top it all, sometimes the songs are virtually unsingable. An enjoyable atmosphere is created artificially that leaves those present open to all kinds of psychological suggestions, some of which can be very harmful to the spiritual life of the person who have been affected by it. This is true in so many evangelical churches and meetings.

Therefore the people do not come to church to be taught God's Word, but to feel good, and have their needs met. I said in an earlier post that Reformed preaching is often justifiably criticised for being too cerebral; this must be qualified by saying that there can be no Biblical preaching without a certain cerebral element. Drummond is surely correct when he says that both the Bible and preaching are propositional. In order for it to be presented to intelligent men, it has to be directed primarily to the intellect. But if all that many church members want today is to have a spiritual experiences of some sort, then propositional truth will be seriously discounted. They have forgotten that they are called to love God "with all their mind," (Mt.22:37). When Christians refuse to use their minds in their devotions, either public or private, it should not surprise us that this will have a destructive impact on preaching, thus rendering it impotent. God does not just want to inform men, but to transform them. He wants to move through the Word by His Spirit and grip their hearts so that they will never again be the same. God does not want to negotiate, but to nullify; not stimulate our minds, but rather strip us of our sin and self-righteousness; we do not need lectures about God, but we do need great preaching that will confront us with the revelation of the Living God of heaven.