The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Ordinary preaching

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It has been a privilege to be part of a church which has supported certain pastor-preachers for as long as I can remember. We are now supporting in retirement (or semi-retirement) men who have served for decades in different parts of the world. They were men of my father’s generation. Several of those men have been God’s instruments in establishing churches which they have overseen directly and planting other congregations. They have seen scores and even hundreds of well-attested converts, and under their instruction men have been raised up to preach and teach in turn, so that in some cases there are already two or three generations of faithful and fruitful indigenous pastors carrying out the work of the ministry.

And, from time to time, it has been our privilege to hear those men in person. They come from places where they preach fluently in a language not their own, sometimes to hundreds of people, to preach in a smaller building to a smaller congregation. It is part of the ongoing relationship of genuine affection and mutual encouragement. We have prayed for these men and given to their work; we have thrilled to reports of God’s blessing on their work. And now we get to hear them preach.

And they are ordinary.

I do not mean in any sense to diminish them or their labours by saying that. If anything, I mean to dignify both. They simply stand up and preach the Word of God. They explain and apply the text. Their substance is biblical. Their language is simple. Their structures are straightforward. Their illustrations are clear. Their humanity is plain. Their earnestness is undoubted.

I think that there are some differences. Friends who have heard them in their own sphere have attested that they are, if anything, more fluent and forceful in their adopted language than in their native tongue, that there is a more evident dynamism in their delivery among their own people. Perhaps they go among people who expect more of God, pray more for their ministers, anticipate a greater blessing with their own faith. (It is, perhaps, the reverse of what some of us have known when we have preached elsewhere, and sermons that fell flat among our own congregations have been owned of the Lord to the conversion or help of many.)

But those preachers themselves, when asked, say, in effect, “No, that’s the sermon I preached the last week I was in my own place,” or, “No, the Lord was pleased to make that series the means of saving many when I preached at home.”

But there is no difference in the truth they preach or the faith they possess. That is an encouragement to ordinary preachers. They simply stand up and preach the Word of God. They explain and apply the text. Their substance is biblical. Their language is simple. Their structures are straightforward. Their illustrations are clear. Their humanity is plain. Their earnestness is undoubted.

No doubt we need to pray more for the blessing of God. No doubt it would help if we preached to eagerly expectant men and women who are anticipating a blessing and praying for one themselves. But there need be no difference in the truth we preach, and there should be no difference in the faith we possess. It is the Word of God, and the blessing is his to give.

The same religion which saved three thousand at Pentecost can save three thousand now. The same preaching which has saved and established hundreds in other parts of God’s world can do the same here, as it has in the past. God’s truth has not changed in its substance nor its power. Our old gospel sword retains a keen edge. The same Spirit attends and can bless the work here and now.

So let me preach my ordinary sermon. Let me seek to do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, by all means, but let me seek nothing more and nothing else. Let me speak God’s truth with sincere faith, and look to God for his blessing.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 9 February 2021 at 13:12

Posted in Pastoral theology

Tagged with ,

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