…and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
This is a re-post from 2009. If the URC is not to have an ad campaign what should it have? Here’s a start to my answer:
After I came back to church at the age of 21 I had the great blessing of being a member of St Andrew’s United Reformed Church in Sheffield. In that congregation I heard the Bible exposited week after week. My newly-given desire to hear the Word of God was nurtured as I sat in the pews. As I learnt more and more of Reformed Christianity I saw how vital the preaching of the Word was in the church.
However, as I entered college and began to be exposed to a more – how shall I put it – varied diet I began to see that St Andrew’s was a special place. Too often I sat through “sermons” where I closed the Bible after a few minutes because it was no longer being referred to.
It was a blessed relief to be in Madagascar where the Bible saturated the services. Call to Worship – Bible. Confession of sin – Bible. OT, NT, Sermon – Bible. Blessing – Bible. It was awesome in all the right meanings of that word.
My passion is to communicate the living message of the Bible to the flock that I have been called to care for. People have responded to that. Many people have said how they appreciate how the Bible has been made relevant for them. Praise God for that.
However, other people have expressed a disquiet because my preaching is so different from what they’ve had in the past.
I’m not a great preacher. I wander all over the place, I jump from point to point and my applications are often irrelevant or non-existent. But I’m committed to learning and improving because it’s preaching that I’ve been called to do and preaching that I hope to be doing 50 years from now.
In my past series on Vision 2020 there was a subtext going through all that I wrote. It was this: Cut the gimmicks and return to Reformed ecclesiology and worship with expository preaching at the centre. For as Paul reminds us in Romans 10, faith isn’t given through group discussions, powerpoint slides or radical worship. It comes through hearing. It comes by hearing a message delivered by a herald.
When I see the denomination scratching around for a new programme time and time again, I wish it would remember that God has ordained the preaching of the Word as his means of calling sinners to new life and edifying the saints.
Here are a couple of blog posts that have expressed this better than I ever could:
Dan Phillips sums up the feelings I have when the Bible isn’t opened, engaged with or preached in worship.
Scott Clark gives advice to ministers on their priorities.