Saturday, 10 September 2011

The use of scripture in preaching - Christine Baxter

What is preaching
Preaching is speaking the grace of God to the heart so that discipleship is evoked.  It's less about speaking to the heads and more about speaking to hearts.

We should not be trying to teach, that is not it's main purpose.  Preaching is the living word of God, based on the written word, through the spoken word.

How should we preach?
God speaks to our hearers through our preaching, rather than the preaching itself being the speaking.  Our preaching should be in such a way that the hearers can make a response to God.  We are facilitators.

We preach for a response; we need to preach so people long for what God can give them.  Of course if we are to allow a response then time is needed in the service for that.  We need to ensure the moment isn't stolen away.  Holding silence at the end of the sermon can be a perfect way to allow God to speak and people to reflect and respond.  

Often at the end of services people want to be able to talk about what has moved them.  We need to be ready to minister to anyone who is responding and needing help; be that immediately or or weeks later.  This ministry helps people to see situations from God's perspective rather than the world's perspective.

God does not tell us or chastise us, he is gracious and full of love and grace; we need to remember that and do the same.

We preach by the way we live and the life we lead as well as what and how we say the words.  This is just as important and something that needs taking into account in our actions and sermons.

We preach both to others and to ourselves; this means we need to make time to respond and repent and receive from God.

John Wesley would never allow anyone to preach unless they were fasting at least two days a week.  This is about being pure and receiving and channels of the Spirit.  That might not mean fasting with food, but certainly some sort of fasting could be useful.

We need to preach prayerfully; asking for the spirit to speak through us and act where needed.  We also preach expectantly; knowing that God will speak through us and bring the aim of the sermon to others.  And yes, it's right to have an aim in our preaching, one that can be written as a collect.

God who .... (scripture)
Do the same again in this situation
For Jesus' sake.

Preaching is a spiritual activity and we might encounter difficulties and should expect spiritual warfare.  We should be prepared spiritually for backlash and ready to accept and respond appropriately.

Preaching is scriptural; it is helping people to engage with scripture.  The lectionary helps us with this by taking us through the Bible in 3 years.  

But at times it might need help if there is a message to be given.  For example we never hear Ruth chapters 2 onwards through the lectionary, but perhaps the congregation would benefit from a focus on Ruth as a book sometimes.  It is about preaching the whole text when the text provided falls short of the mark.

When we read a newspaper we understand what we're reading, for what purpose.  That will be different than reading a letter from a friend or one from a bank manager.  In the same way that we read based on context; we need to read each book of scripture knowing it's context and background.

Application is the word of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit works first, the hearer works second and the preacher is the third part in the application of scripture.  But do we ever trust God to apply His word to His people?

Sometimes we need to delve into the text and draw the congregation into further depth.  But sometimes we might do better to draw no conclusions but to purely present the word of God as it is and in it's context.

Our application of the scriptures can often be so much smaller than what God can want.  It is therefore important to allow space for God to engage in the thinking through of the word for the people.

Through our preaching we can issue an invitation from God to the people as individuals to respond; much as we will have done in our sermon preparation.

Eg "Jesus calls us to follow Him; I was myself called to follow Him and try my best.  So, will you follow him?"

We preach differently depending on the size of the congregation.  That doesn't mean the subject and application and message is different; but that the style of preach will alter. A full church needs a more formal preach, where as a congregation of 2 families would be easier to engage with in a more relaxed, personal way.

John Stott says we need to preach in our current context; we need to think about the scripture in relation to the events of the week.  This is extremely important, we need to address current events in a rounded way and allow God's Word to talk to is in those situations.  

It is good to prepare our sermons with the Bible in one hand, the Newspaper in the other and with prayer throughout it all.

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