The Living Church- Chapter Six
In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.
This chapter deals with preaching. Preaching, says Stott, is not considered to be ‘in’ today, but he still wants to encourage it as essential to the living church. He proposes a number of characteristics of ‘authentic’ Christian preaching that complement each other and that should be held in tension.
First, authentic Christian preaching is biblical and contemporary. This is shaped by an exposition of Scripture that resonates with today’s world. We need to listen to both. Be careful here, says Stott, not to make a false polarization between being biblical and contemporary. This is one of the great liberal – evangelical divides.
Second, authentic Christian preaching is authoritative and tentative. Good hermeneutical work and a central focus on Scripture are necessary – Scripture says, not I say – while at the same time it is essential to admit and embrace that God has not revealed everything. Not all in Scripture is equally clear or made known. I would call what Stott is aiming for: confidence and humility. Good preaching should lead people into the Scripture so that they learn to read and live it for themselves.
Third, authentic Christian preaching is prophetic and pastoral. Everyone in church is to be both of these. Prophetic in giving testimony to God’s word in the midst of those who may be deaf and pastoral in helping them to hear. Being firm and gentle, says Stott, is the tension.
Fourth, authentic Christian preaching needs a preacher. Who? One who is ‘called, equipped and anointed by God.’ And these three have to be built up and nourished through study and prayer.
Fifth, authentic Christian preaching is thoughtful and passionate. Both mind and emotions are to be involved. Exposition and appeal are traits of good preaching.
Authentic Christian preaching is to be found in these five ‘unresolved paradoxes.’
Dr. Gregory J. Laughery