Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Him We Proclaim 3.2

Let's wrap up the Paul's theology of preaching.

5. The price we pay: "suffering …Christ's afflictions…toil, struggling."

Someone once said the Greek word for "pastor" is "toilet." Somedays it feels like that! Paul himself said we are the scum of the earth, the dregs of all things. But to be honest, when I feel this way it usually has little to do with the actual proclamation and defense of Jesus as Lord, as Savior. It usually has to do with my weakness as a leader or my inability to meet someone's expectations. What Paul has in mind in Colossians 1, though, is a visible, physical representation of Jesus on earth today. As preachers we are entrusted with the most profound responsibility: to speak for God, as Jesus would. Yet like Jesus, we too will suffer. In fact everyone who desire to live like Jesus will suffer, just as he did. If Jesus suffered in life and death for trusting in and proclaiming the word, the message of God who are we to think we're off the hook?

"Apostolic preaching is no nine-to-five job at which employees put in the required hours and then leave workplace worries behind at day's end, paychecks in hand, to pursue their 'real lives.' To be entrusted with the treasure of God's gospel is not a responsibility that can be switched 'off' and 'on' at will." (p. 86)

" Paul, however, awakens us from fantasyland [that people always shower preachers with admiration, respect, and appreciation] and introduces us to the real world: those who would practice apostolic preaching must be prepared for both toil and suffering." (p. 90)

If you're thinking of becoming a pastor, read Paul's "job description" in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians (11:23-33) first.

6. The power on which we rely: "all his energy…within me."

Cool PowerPoint/Media Shout presentations, Swindoll's Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, mimicking Mark Driscoll, studying 20hrs/week, buying sermons online…none of these things will ensure effective preaching. This is not to say that we should abandon creativity, relevant communication, and diligent study. "Apostolic preaching puts no premium on obscurity, disorganization, or indifference to the hearer's level of understanding." (p. 91) But there is something more vital to preaching than homiletical strategy: prayerful dependence. Paul was keenly aware that his ministry effectiveness was dependent upon God's power working in and through him. Read his prayers, pray his prayers, live his prayers: Eph. 1:15-19; 3:14-19; Col. 1:9-12.

"Preachers like Paul, who realize their own desperate need and the Spirit's almighty power, will saturate their ministry of the Word with prayer—for their hearers, themselves, and each other—and will urgently seek the support of others' prayers." (p. 92)

7. The office we fulfill: "minister according to the stewardship from God."

We are stewards, not kings. In the Return of the King, Tolkien graphically portrays the abuse that comes when one forgets his office. Denethor, though just a steward of Gondor, acted as though he were king, and pride clouded his reason, obscured his responsibilities, and fueled his despair. When the time came for him to relinquish the throne for the true King, his trust in his own will was so great that he would not acknowledge the true heir. Anyway…read the book.

In a similar way, Paul says "we are stewards of the great King. Don't forget it!"

"Having been entrusted with his Master's richest treasure, 'the mysteries of God' (the gospel once hidden but now revealed), and having been charged to use it for the Master's purposes, Paul the steward is answerable for the conduct of his trusteeship when the Master 'audits the books.'" (p. 94)

"The preacher speaks in God's name, and he does so not only as one who will some day give an account for his handling of the divine Word (2 Tim. 2:15) but also as one who stands today in the very presence of the God whose word he proclaims." (p. 95)

Discussion Questions:

  1. Prayer is one of the most tangible ways that we can minister (esp. preaching) in the strength God supplies. What are some other ways that we can be reminded of and empowered by God's strength?
  2. How do you maintain a prayerful dependence upon God in your preaching? What are some of your disciplines?
  3. Preaching=Suffering. How has weekly preaching opened your eyes that ministry is not a day at Disneyland?
  4. How does the gospel give you hope in carrying out the humanly-impossible task of preaching?

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