Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Church Doesn't Need More 'Speakers', It Needs More Preachers

 As I have been involved in pulpit supply, for many years, in various geographical and denominational settings, I have noticed a divergence of expression in describing the ministry of the Word. Some believers describe what they do as a 'speaking engagement' and others speak of 'preaching engagements.' As I have reflected on this, I think there is a need for two things to take place. Firstly, those who have been given this opportunity, need to understand their role in terms of preaching, secondly, we should look for preachers, and not speakers, to deliver the Word of God to His people.

What is the difference between a speaker and a preacher? I'm glad you asked.

According to the Free Dictionary 'Speaking' is defined as follows:

1. To utter words or articulate sounds with ordinary speech modulation; talk.
a. To convey thoughts, opinions, or emotions orally.
b. To express oneself.
c. To be on speaking terms: They are no longer speaking.
3. To deliver an address or lecture: The mayor spoke at the rally.

In the bible, however, the ministry of the Word of God is expressed in the following ways: proclamation, preach,  preached, preacher, preaches, preaching, proclaim, proclaimed and proclaiming.

The Greek word is  kerusso
  1. to be a herald, to officiate as a herald
  2. to proclaim after the manner of a herald
  3. always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed
  4. to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done
  5. used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles and other Christian teachers

(For more information click here.)

The church has enough 'talkers', and 'conveyers of opinion'. It has no shortage of people who can give an address or 'express themselves' in an articulate manner. However, there is a dearth of preachers. There is a scarcity of those who speak as heralds of the King of Kings; there is a famine in the land, and few there be that speak with 'gravity', 'authority' and in a manner which causes the listeners feel they must listen and obey the message. Speaking engagements are for boys who like toys, preaching engagements are for men who carry fire.

In a day when there is a tendency to use culturally neutral language, a day when the pulpit is replaced with the podium; the pastor with the facilitator; the church with the community and the preacher with the speaker-- there is a real danger that we are not only losing the terms, but we are also losing the reality of these unique kingdom functions. Anyone can speak, only Spirit-sent servants can preach.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 1 Tim 4:2

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pastors, Do you Pray for your Peers, or are you Competing with your Contemporaries?

"An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest." Luke 9:46

The day before this argument takes place, Jesus has revealed his glory to his disciples in what has come to be known as the transfiguration. The following day, Jesus casts a demon out of a young boy. The crowds are astounded at the authority of Jesus. Jesus begins to predict his death on the cross. The disciples don't get it, and instead spend time arguing about who will be the greatest.

It's easy for post-Pentecost Christians, pastors, and preachers to snigger at the immaturity of the disciples and to imagine that we are above such play-ground politics. But are we?

There is a danger in all of us, that instead of being like the crowds, of whom Luke says: 'And all were astonished at the majesty of God' (Luke 9:43), and instead of grasping the wonder and glory of the cross, we can  be absorbed by our own (deluded) sense of greatness. Whether it be the greatness of our church; or the greatness of our anointing; or the greatness of the ministries we rub shoulders with; or even the greatness of our preaching gift-- whatever it is-- it is clear from the above text, that it robs God of the glory that belongs to him; it causes us to be blind to the cross and it spoils fellowship with other Christians and leaders.

Perhaps these delusions of grandeur are not as explicit as they seem to be among the disciples -- perhaps it is the hidden power behind our motivations, attitude and criticisms of other believers. We need to remember that Jesus searches beyond the surface of our lives: 'Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts.' (Luke 9:47) Because of the of the depth of depravity that affects even the regenerate, we need to constantly bring our attitudes and motivations to the foot of the cross.

We may pay lip service to 'the majesty of God', we may even preach regularly about the centrality of the cross-- but how are our relationships with our peers in ministry? Are we praying for our preacher/pastor peers or are we competing with them? Do we encourage them or pretend to ourselves that we are somehow above them? Do we take the time to hear how their ministry is doing, or are we too focused on our own vineyard?

Of course, busyness is an issue for most people, but it can also be a mask which hides self-interest. Let's resist the tide of cultural busyness and the pull of fleshly self-orientated ministry, and instead focus on developing a Kingdom mind-set. A mind-set that refuses to compete with our contemporaries but instead chooses to pray for our peers.