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A Bit More Preaching, In Pulpit & Beyond

December 15, 2007

I always appreciate it when people help clarify the articles they write. It is so easy to misread people: to assume what they are arguing and misrepresent them. I therefore wanted to post Gordon Cheng’s further clarifications which he put in our comments section. Below Gordon’s comments, I have added one further observation and also asked him a question (if he has time to answer it!).

Hi Colin

Thanks for the link to my post. R.Scott Clark alerted me to his reply on Heidelblog, which I also appreciated and completely agreed with. I also thought, with respect, that it answered a point I wasn’t making. I am a great fan of preaching, having been well taught over the years by Phillip Jensen, Peter Jensen, John Woodhouse and many other fine Sydney evangelical preachers.

(Incidentally, I see that you have the 9 Marks blog listed right up the top of your blogroll. Recently my boss here at Matthias Media, Tony Payne, and Phillip Jensen, spoke at a Matthias Media conference in Washington alongside Mark Dever).

My point is, I think, essentially the same as the one that Richard Baxter makes not only in the quote from *The Reformed Pastor* but also in the whole book. You are no doubt aware that Baxter was a regular and faithful public preacher whose habit was to preach twice weekly to his congregation at Kidderminster.

Like him, I am a regular preacher (I won’t claim to be as regular or as faithful!) at my church, St Paul’s Carlingford in Sydney, where I have been leading one of the congregations in 2007. So I am not at all anti-preaching, any more than Baxter was.

But my point—and I’ve expanded on it in various ways back at my blog—is that all word ministry that is based on the explanation and application of God’s inerrant saving word, the Bible, is equally a way that God uses in a ’sacramental’ sense (not language that I would use, but it may help make the point) to bring grace to us by his Spirit.

I’ve tried to point to some of the biblical arguments for this in my follow-up blog entry, here,which I’ve entitled “OK, a bit more on preaching then.” ;-)

Thanks again for the blog link, and God bless.

PS You can find a slightly more respectable version of both posts, merged into one at the Matthias Media Briefing website.

In the comments section, I then replied as follows:

Gordon,

Thanks for your very helpful clarification on the post. I can now see where you are coming from, and don’t think I would disagree with you on the overall point you are making (promoting non-pulpit Word-ministry). However, one observation and one question.

First, the observation. I’m not sure the best way to frame the point is by saying “a little LESS preaching please.” Perhaps this is simply a deliberately provocative ‘post title’? (Haven’t we all done that to make a point?!) However, might it not be a better approach to talk of ‘elevating’ other word ministries to their rightful place – providing we can substantiate that place from Scripture? With preaching getting such a bad wrap in secular culture (and, in my opinion, in much of evangelicalism) we don’t want to further help its critics by reducing the stock of preaching, even in the language we use.

Second, the question. How practically can the preaching-pastor elevate the importance of other forms of Word-ministry in his church without diminishing his commitment to pulpit preaching?

On another front, I really appreciate your ministry over there with Matthias. I enjoy reading The Briefing and heartily recommend it to others.

Colin

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3 comments

  1. Hi Colin and Gordon,

    I try to address the underlying assumption of Gordon’s argument here:

    http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2007/12/15/ministers-all/#more-57

    best,

    Scott


  2. Scott,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughtful response, and appreciate it: not least your courage in tackling a ‘common assumption’ in evangelicalism… (Right or wrong, not an easy thing to do!) Gordon, surely this has to find its away into the next print of the Briefing ;) A different perspective to your view that also needs an airing?

    Colin


  3. Hi Colin and Scott,

    Thanks again for your responses. Yes, the title was provocative, but I’m not sure I want to elevate preaching just *because* our culture tends to denigrate it. I’m not persuaded that the New Testament itself puts pulpit preaching as a word ministry of greater value than any other, and I’m trying to reflect that in my thoughts on the blog (I’ve just posted another Baxter quote, by the way, see:

    http://ingmarhingwah.blogspot.com/2007/12/more-baxter-on-preaching-and.html

    If you were going to elevate one particular word ministry as more important, wouldn’t it be apostleship? All our other word ministries are, after all, dedicating to highlighting, explaining, and applying the apostolic word above all others (I include the NT gospels as an apostolic word, by the way, on the grounds of John 14:26).

    As to your question: How practically can the preaching-pastor elevate the importance of other forms of Word-ministry in his church without diminishing his commitment to pulpit preaching?

    By recognizing their complementary nature, as Baxter does. If I meet people one-to-one, I will be a more effective preacher. If other people in the congregation (elders) run better Bible studies, the Sunday sermonizing will have greater impact. And so on. You don’t have to sacrifice the one to build up the other, although sometimes I think we could do with slightly less well-crafted sermon because the minister was too busy trying to meet with and help support Bible study leaders (for example).

    Thanks for your kind comments about the Briefing! And God bless your blogging, which is a word ministry in its own right.

    Scott: I don’t really agree with any of the assumptions you are imputing to me, so I am more than happy for you to criticize them, as they represent someone else’s position. As far as I am concerned, the New Testament is perfectly clear that some of the believers are set apart for specific roles as elders and teachers, and that should be the norm in our churches today.

    (On Ephesians 4, I wonder if you have paid enough attention to the Jew-
    Gentile question? Not that this is fundamental to our discussion, but I believe it is fundamental to Ephesians in general and Ephesians 4 in particular).



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