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Chi Wah Chow

Tel: 07511 771647
pastor@lilbourne-evangelical.org.uk

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Preaching

Homiletical Studies

Study One

(Preach the Word)

Introduction

As soon as a man is saved, his first thought is to tell about it to others.  In fact, this is the desire of everyone who has heard some good news – he wants to pass it on to someone else.  How much more is this the case when one has had a living personal experience of the Good News of God in our Lord Jesus Christ?

Every child of God is called to be a witness (Acts 1:8) but not every one is called to preach the Gospel, in the sense in which we are thinking in this series of studies.  Preaching the gospel is the most important duty of every servant of God.  Of course, it should also be his joy, especially after he has learnt and experienced in the poser of the Spirit, the many wonderful truths connected with the Vision which the Lord has given to His Church, and which are set out in out Doctrinal Studies.

Preaching is a callingBut, as a servant of the Lord, you should feel that PREACHING is a definite burden laid upon your heart.  This is how Paul felt about it – ‘Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.’ (1 Cor 9:16)

May you therefore, as you go through these studies, come to realise that Preaching is not just a profession, or something which you can afford to treat lightly, but that rather, it is your very life – that you cannot live unless you preach the Word which the Lord by His Spirit has already made real and living in your own experience.  You will often feel like Jeremiah (when he was discouraged by the scorn of the people who listened to him) and will say ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name; but His Word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.’ (Jer 20:9)

Now the Preacher must have a Message – and this message is called a SERMON or HOMILY.  It is from this last word that we get ‘HOMILETICS’, which name means simply – ‘How to prepare a Homily.’  The following is as good a definition as any, of what we man by a HOMILY.  Read and study it carefully.

 IT IS AN ORAL DISCOURSE TO THE PUBLIC MIND, ON A RELIGIOUS SUBJECT, CAREFULLY PREPARED, WITH A DEFINITE OBJECT.

You will notice that in this definition, FIVE things are said about the Homily, and these will help us to form our Studies in this Course, teaching us special lessons on Preaching.

AN ORAL DISCOURSE                       HOW shall I preach?                 (Study 1)

TO THE PUBLIC MIND                       TO WHOM shall I preach?          (Study 2)

ON A RELIGIOUS SUBJECT               WHAT shall I preach?                (Study 3)

CAREFULLY PREPARED                     WHEN shall I preach?                (Study 4)

WITH A DEFINITE OBJECT                WHY should I preach?               (Study 5)

It will be appreciated, of course, that these studies are never intended to be exhaustive – on such a noble subject!  They are meant to provide just a simple outline and statement of basic facts and needs in connection with Preaching Gospel.  These can and will be amplified as occasion arises from various authors and sources.

 HOW SHALL I PREACH?

 This study will deal with our manner in the pulpit, or in the presence of a congregation; and therefore it has to do with three things – Appearance; Actions; Articulation.

(a)        APPEARANCE

This is most important, for the people will first of all see you and take a good look at you, before they will hear you or listen to you.  First impressions are generally lasting ones.  Often a good message has been spoilt because the congregation did not like the appearance of the preacher; he did not look fresh and clean; his clothes or hair were untidy.  People are helped by the fresh appearance of the minister.  It is wrong and foolish to suppose that slovenliness is a mark of genius or the scholarly mind; that would only be to add vanity to irreverence.  Ill grooming in the pulpit is a disgrace to the divine office.  We should remember that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness.’  Our hearers will unconsciously link the holiness of our message with the cleanliness of our appearance, and this is possible to the poorest of us.  Even if our message is short and simple, our clean and tidy appearance will do much towards winning the hearts of our congregation to listen to our message and to attract them to the Lord Jesus.

 

(b)  ACTIONS

Even our entry into the pulpit should be honouring our Lord.  It is not becoming to rush into it, nor to sneak into it, and then perform hurried movements of ill preparation, followed by a lolling about!  Such behaviour will not give the impression that we have come form the audience chamber of heaven, with a message from God, or that we have the sense of being His ambassador.

We should stand uprightly before the people, and avoid sprawling over the desk or standing with hands in pockets.  When Peter preached (Acts 2:14) and Paul (13:16) they STOOD UP.  Standing uprightly proves that we are confident or sure of the Lord whom we serve, and of the message He has entrusted to us.  Our hearers also will see that we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.  The again, avoid detachment in worship; join in with your congregation.  Do not gaze at the same spot but let your eyes move over the whole assembly.

During the sermon, the movements of our hands and bodies, and the expression on our faces, should be in tune with what we are saying.  There are no set rules, but BE NATURAL.  Avoid all extravagances, which might be

 

allowable on a public platform, but are out of place in a pulpit, and tend to foster an irreverent spirit, as well as to distract the attention of your hearers, causing them to be occupied with the motion of your hands or body, instead of with your message.  Even a repeated action can be very distracting, while excess movement can be just a covering for the poverty of our message.

Perhaps the simple secret of correct attitude and actions in the pulpit is – that the message which Goad has given you, has so gripped your heart and flooded your being, that your body in all its attitudes will be in perfect harmony with that message, and thus will be the ideal instrument for its expression.  As we shall find during this course, the truth we preach must become part of us, if we are to be preachers in the true sense of the word.  Then, its essential grace and glory will keep us humble and self-controlled, not yielding to the temptation of self-display.

 

(C)        ARTICULATION

This seems a very long word to use, but it means just this – SPEAK CLEARLY AND DISTINCTLY SO THAT PEOPLE IN ALL PARTS OF THE BUILDING OR CROWD CAN HEAR AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.  Many preachers think that they must shout in order to get people to hear.  Often indeed, they shout in order to cover the poverty of their message!  This is quite wrong, for a shouting preacher makes people deaf to what he is saying.  The noise of his voice hides the truth of his message, just as a dazzling light blinds us to things around us.

There is a simple way of speaking clearly and distinctly; which is far better and more effective than shouting.  Use your lips and tongue freely; open your mouth, as the Lord did (Matt 5:2) SPEAK UP (and keep your chin up) so that you are sure that the people at the back of the building can hear you.  Do not talk only to those sitting in the front rows.  ALL need the message, and probably those sitting at the back need it most of all!

“The human voice lies midway between the lips and the heart, that all the light may fall from the lips, and all the love may well up from the heart.”

Through it, men have moved crowds to a high pitch of excitement and joy; and through it too, they have caused multitudes to be melted to tears.  It is the most perfect instrument in the world – other instruments just imitate it in its variety of sounds.

Practise speaking slowly, clearly and distinctly.  Choose well-known suitable portions of scripture for this purpose, as well as classical pieces in prose and poetry. (Psalm 20; 22; 23; Isaiah 53; Matt 5:1-16; Eph 2 etc)  Never attempt to read any portion of scripture to a congregation unless you have, first of all, practised it and mastered it well at home, paying particular attention to punctuation, emphasis on the right words and appropriate modulations of voice. The reading of scripture is one of the most important things in a church service; so often it is treated as a mere ‘preliminary’ to be hurried through.  If you have learnt to read scripture well, then you are on the way to becoming a good preacher.

Let the tone of your voice express the truth of your message.  For instance, when you are telling the people of the love of God for them, a hard, angry voice is quite out of place; and so is a soothing, pleasant voice when you want to picture the terrible results of sin, or the horrible doom of a lost soul. (Nehemiah 8:1-12 for a biblical example of good reading).

Lastly, do not make your congregation tired by long messages.  Try to say all you have to say in about 30 minutes or even less.  It will be a good discipline to practise this.  Then they will want to hear you again.  He was a wise old preacher who gave the following counsel; STAND UP- SPEAK UP- SHUT UP!

Then too – “Begin low- Go slow; rise higher – take fire; wax warm – sit down in a storm.”  In short – BE FULL OF YOUR SUBJECT AND FORGET YOURSELF!

Questions

  1. Read 1 Kings 10:4 and 5.  As the Queen of Sheba looked at the servants and ministers of Solomon, what two things in their appearance impressed her?
  2. Read 2 Cor 10:1.  Paul says that ‘in presence I am base among you’.  What did he mean by this ‘presence’?
  3. From your answers to questions 1 and 2, as well as from facts given in this study, what should your appearance be in the pulpit?
  4. Read 1 Kings 10:8.  Why did Solomon’s servants ‘stand’ before him – why didn’t they sit?
  5. Read 1 Kings10:1, 18:15, 2 Kings 3:14, 5:16.  Why did the prophets Elijah and Elisha thus ‘stand before the Lord’?
  6. Read Acts 2:14.  Why did Peter stand up?
  7. From your answers to the previous questions, explain fully why you should stand up boldly to preach?
  8. Read Ex 4:10-14.  Explain why Moses was ‘slow of speech’ and Aaron could ‘speak well”?
  9. Read 1 Cor 2:1, 4; 2 Cor 3:12, 7:4, 11:6, Eph 6:20 and then describe how Paul preached.
  10. From answers 8 and 9 and from what you have gleaned from the study, how should you preach to your congregation?

GLEANINGS

In going to, and entering the pulpit, avoid an attitude and manner which breathes studied dignity or solemnity, or self-conscious thought of the eyes of the congregation fixed upon you.  Rather, let your manner breathe humility, simplicity, love and gladness as becomes the bearer of Good Tidings. ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings of peace.’

Do not aim at oratory.  Avoid and even conceal and repress, a practised fluency, a self-confident delivery, a professional command of gesture, as calculated to actually diminish the spiritual effect.

Aim at diverting the attention of your hearers from yourself, your natural powers of voice, language, gesture, talents or learning; remember that just in so far as the attention of the hearer is given to either or any of these, so it is withdrawn from those things to which it should be your object to direct it.  Aim, therefore, at concentrating it upon Christ and His salvation for sinners, upon your message of warning, invitation and pardon; and that, not as a message of your own, but as one given you by Christ, which you are your soul’s peril must deliver.

Remember that the great pre-requisite in the preacher is the outward expression and manifestation of inward feeling.  Unconsciously and unaware of yourself, and even in spite of efforts of concealment, your outward manner and tone of address reveal and manifest the presence or absence within of true Christian and ministerial character and feeling.  The effect of your message upon the hearts and consciences of your hearers depends, not so much upon your subject, treatment, arguments or language, as upon the subtle flavour and taste of real, genuine Christ-likeness, spirituality and divine unction and power, which are imparted to them by your whole bearing, manner and tone of voice.  These influences, when present in sincerity, simplicity and truth are of almost irresistible power; they disarm criticism, compel attention, take forcible possession of your audience and bring them meek and humble into the aweful and immediate presence of God, Christ and eternity.

Think of the expression on the countenance of Christ, the marvellous and fascination power of His look, His manner and tone of voice, when He said to Andrew, Philip, James, John and Matthew, ‘Follow Me’, and they rose up and followed Him; when He said ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden’; when He said ‘Suffer little children to come unto Me’; when

He looked on the retreating form of the young ruler and loved him; when He said ‘Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more’; when He wept over Jerusalem; when He turned and looked on Peter.  Then go, and represent Christ, the spirit and love of Christ, in your thoughts and feeling, in your words, look, tone of voice and manner.

Do not ‘fix’ a person within your eye.  This is embarrassing and discourteous.  But look your hearers in the face that they may know it is truly to them that you are speaking.  Then your hands – beware of the ‘penguin flap’.  Some delight in fingertip touching; another seems to be washing hands with invisible soap in imperceptible water.  Your gestures should suit your thoughts; they are ‘emotion in action’.  Beware of contradictory gestures, and watch lest your enthusiasm betray you into ludicrous gestures.

Avoid the ‘holy tome’ for devotional talks, and do not roar and shout.  Do not speak as if you were anxious to split the roof!  Then, most important caution of all, never drop your voice.  By a curious perversity, on the very word or phrase which we wish to emphasise, some of us drop our voices so low that nobody is able to hear the word that we wish to stress.  Nervous coughs and throat clearings should be suppressed at once – we can do that if we have the will.  Then there-ah is-ah always-ah the-ah person-ah who-ah likes-ah to talk-ah like-ah this –ah.

In all these things, our prayer will be:

Lord, speak to me, that I may speak

In living echoes of THY tone.

 TO WHOM SHALL I PREACH?

(STUDY 2)

INTRODUCTION

The above may seem a simple question to ask; for has not our Lord already given a direct answer- “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to EVERY CREATURE”? (Mk 16:15)  That commandment, however, was and still is a general one to all His disciples in all lands, to leave no soul ignorant of the Good News.  That News is so good and so vital that every creature should hear it, and unless preachers are sent, how can they hear?  (Roman 10:14)

But this does not necessarily mean that YOU have to leave your home and family and visit every country.  That would be impossible for one man, in any case.  What it does mean is that the one who has heard and answered His call to preach will have to start doing so at his own village or town first.  He must prove there, by character, conduct and speech that he has been called to preach.  Even the early disciples had to start preaching in Jerusalem, their own city. (Luke 24:47)  As they were faithful there, the Lord was able to scatter them to other places and regions; and even the persecution which brought this to pass, proved how faithfully and well they had preached the gospel at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-4).  Therefore, if your wish to preach in other towns or villages, you should preach is so well in your home town or village, by lip and life, especially amongst your relatives, that God will honour the Word through you, and people will be so convicted of sin, that they will either long to be saved, or long to get rid of you!  Perhaps they will “cast you out” – would you be prepared for this?  Such days may come again even in our own homeland, and sooner than we realise.  Certainly they are days which are even now being experienced in some European countries by His faithful witnesses.

Thus, the Lord who has called you to preach expects you to be willing to do so first in your home town or village – in your church there as well as in the open air.  You should beware of the tempting thought that it is better to preach somewhere else.  Be faithful to Him where He has placed you and then He will be faithful in opening up other doors for you in His own good time.

There are three things to consider, when we think of the congregation before whom the preacher must stand to minister the Word of Life.

We have to consider their Number, their Nature, and their Need.

(a) Number

People that come to churchThe number of people in your congregation will vary very much in the different churches where you will be expected to preach.  People like to gather together in crowds, for they like company.  This is natural, for God created man in the beginning, not to be alone, but to multiply so that he might enjoy the company of his fellow-beings.  Generally, a town church should have more people than a village church.  As a preacher, you will have to adapt yourself to such differences in numbers.  In Conventions or Special services, of course, your congregation will be numbered in hundreds.  Some are fearful of preaching before a large company.  The only way to overcome such fear is to be filled with His Spirit – be sure of your message – and then launch out in His Name.  Continual practice too will deliver you from such fear.  Many preacher who now face large congregations boldly, were once very shy and timid.  On the other hand, the preacher may not like to preach to a small company; he may think ‘it is not worth while; I am only wasting my time and talent on a few poor folk; my sermon is too good for that.  Give me a large congregation to whom I can preach at my very best.’  This is a subtle form of pride as well as folly in reasoning.  It is more difficult to preach to a few than to a large company of people; and that makes the privileges so much the greater.  You can focus your message more to the individual when few are present, and so it will need more careful preparation and more courage to deliver it!  But in a large company, individuals are better able, so they think, to hide themselves away from the message, especially if it is of a searching nature, by saying “ The message is not for me; it is for so and so”.  This explains the popularity of a preacher who thunders against the prevalent sins of the age or of the community.  But true preaching in the Spirit is not content with general ‘thunderings’ but flashes forth in ‘lightening’ stokes to the individual

Al conscience.

You should not be dismayed by fewness of numbers, then, but should all the more give of your very best; for the few call for your most noble efforts.  In any case, your first preaching experience will be amongst small companies.  Our Lord preached once, not to a crowd, but to one woman at the well of Scar; for it was she who needed the message about Living Water and Worship that day in order that she might gather the crowd afterwards.  Thus, even if your congregation is small, be at

 

your very best, for each soul is precious to the Lord.  As you are faithful in the little things, in your ministry to the few, the Lord will then give you opportunities to minister to larger companies (Matt 25:21) and you will be able to do this because you have been prepared amongst the little companies. ‘Your Father in heaven, Who sees in secret, will reward you openly.’ (Matt 6:6)  David was ‘raised’ to the throne of Israel by God (Acts 13:22) for he had learned first to look after the little flock of sheep on the hills of Bethlehem.  It was there that God ‘found’ him and his faithfulness there qualified him for the larger work of looking after His flock of Israel. In the same manner was Moses trained.

 

(b)        NATURE

 

We shall now consider the nature of our congregation.  One of the most important lessons to learn and remember when you are preaching is that your congregation is not a mass of units, but a gathering together of individuals, and each one is different from the other in some respect.  Even in families, brothers and sisters can be quite different in nature and temperament.  If we close our eyes to this fact, and preach to our congregation as if they were all alike, then our preaching will miss the mark and cannot be effective.  This does not mean that we have to suit our message to each individual – that would be impossible, especially of our congregation is a large one, and many of them will be strangers to us.  We should first find out as many as possible of these differences in individuals.  We can do this in our daily contacts with them, as we take a personal interest in their welfare.  If we read the gospels carefully, we shall not that the Lord, in His dealings with men, never did the same things twice in the same way – there was always a difference, in which he recognised that every human being is lonely, separate, peculiar and must be dealt with on his own.

 

One way of finding out these differences is by noting the different occupations of the members of your congregation.  They may be miners, factory workers, mechanics, clerks, agricultural workers etc.  It is here that illustrations or stories suited to their occupation will add value and interest to your message.  Again, you will find differences in attitudes when you speak to people.  Some are hard and callous by nature; others are meek and tender; some are bold; others shy and timid; some are quickly angered; others are patient; some are proud; others are humble.  What an endless variety of character is found in the human family!  Less it not make us cry “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2Cor 2:16) Who is able to meet such a vast, varying need?  But you will have learnt the first secret as you wait upon the Lord for your message, so that the Spirit many ‘point’ the Word in such a way that it will meet each heart in some way or another in the gathering.  “Our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the new covenant.” (2Cor 3:5&6).

 

(c)         NEED

Each member of our congregation is a soul in NEED, whether he or she realises it or not.  Your will be prone to think so much of your sermon that you will unwittingly forget the need of your hearers- especially if you think that you have a very good sermon!  The remedy for this dangerous pride and a safeguard against it, will be found, of course, by just waiting upon Him, and getting such a vision of Calvary that will light up to your heart the desperate condition and need of a human soul, as well as the infinite provision of a loving God.  Your heart will then go out in sympathy towards individuals, and you will be stirred to awaken them to their need and to the divine provision on their behalf.

The pulpit will not be the place to boast or display yourself as higher as or better than the congregation, but, like the Cross, it will be a means for you to draw souls to the Lord Jesus.  You should be like an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) pleading that they might be reconciled to God.  You should feel that you are one with them in their need, because like Ezekiel (3:15) you have come to where they are in order to lift them up to enjoy the rich bounty of the Gospel.

What a variety of need, then, will be before you.  And yet, keeping in mind the congregation to which you will be attached most of your time, such need could possibly be classified very broadly as follows.  There will be the Regulars and the Irregulars.The regulars would consist mainly of your faithful members.  But here again you will find two classes. (a) Seekers.  These have long known the Lord and rested in His love, but are also growing in grace, reaching out for the ever deepening life through the ministry of the Cross. (b) Stayers. They come faithfully to church, not only because they have at some time experienced His saving grace, but now it has become a matter of habit.  There is no apparent desire for the deeper life; they are content with the wilderness experience.  This condition, of course, may have come about because they have been discouraged due to the hardness of the way.  Attendance at church has become respectable, and a vital part of their ordinary path of life.

 

Evidently, the first class will need ‘solid food’, rich spiritual fare; while the latter will need continual ‘tonics’ to stir them up, and awaken them to a life of victory and progress which awaits them in the ‘promised land’ of the ‘heavenly places’.

The Irregulars are those, of course, who come occasionally, and may be grouped as Critical and Curious.  (a) Critical.  These, for some reason or other, come to church, but are out of sympathy with what goes on there.  They have come, ‘not to seek corn, but to seek out the nakedness of the land’ (Gen 42:9), to seize upon your statements and tear them in pieces in their minds.  In face of such unbelief, the temptation will be either to adopt a spirit of defiant argument, (which will only make them hate the truth) or a spirit of weak deference (which will cause them to despise it).  The better way will be to preach the gospel all the more seriously and simply, filling your sermon with a stronger power of conviction and love.  There is nothing that the unbeliever honours or respects more than sincerity of belief.  (b) Curious.  These may have come out of real curiosity, to know what we really have to preach, and therefore a straightforward gospel, preached in the power of the Spirit will meet their need and serve to deepen their curiosity into conviction.  Or they may have come out of ‘idle curiosity’ just to while away the time, so that again their need is to be awakened and gripped by the convicting Spirit.

In general, we can be sure that they will all need JESUS!  If some will need conviction and repentance – the story of the Cross will awaken them. (Acts 2:37)  If Salvation – Jesus is the only saviour (Acts 4:12).  If deliverance from sinful habits, or power to live an overcoming life – the death on the Cross and the consequent Resurrection with the fullness of the Spirit are the secret (Rom 6-8).  Others will need to be filled with the Spirit – the promise is for them (Acts 2:38-39).  Some will need healing from sickness or disease – Jesus is still the healer (James 4:14-15).  Still others need deliverance from evil spirits – in His name these can be cast out (Mark 16:17).

Christ is the answer of God to every human need.  That is why your messages should always centre upon Christ and He crucified the power of God and the Wisdom of God (1 Cor1:24).  Of course, we cannot hope to meet all these needs in one meeting, yet, if we are living close to Him and are sensitive to His voice and guidance we shall sometimes be led to concentrate upon one kind of need in a meeting, so that it will take a special form.  For example, a Gospel meeting will have as its main object the reaching of sinners to get them saved.  Often a healing ministry follows the faithful preaching of the gospel, and acts as a witness to His Word. (Mk16:20)  The preaching of healing should never be separated from the preaching of the Gospel; for the first need of the soul is salvation and forgiveness of sins, as well as the confession of faults to one another (James 5:16)  Then healing can be expected and claimed.  Another vital gathering will be to emphasise the need of being filled with the Spirit, when a message on the promise of the Father will be a necessary inspiration for faith in the hearts of those who have not really experienced this.

In all your ministry, the secret will be your own dependence in faith upon the Lord, as one who needs His grace moment by moment.  It would be well for you to pray the following simple prayer always before your minister – it will keep you from relying upon what you have got, however good you may think your sermon to be.  For it will be lifeless, apart from His breathing into it.

“Father – I have nothing to set before Thy people.  Give me bread from Heaven for them – break Thou the Bread of Life; breathe upon the message (Luke 11:5-8).”

If you become self-confident or independent, you will be in danger of losing you power to minister blessing and life to other needy souls.  Let your own language be-

I NEED JESUS

Questions:

  1.  Is every one called to preach?  Give full and clear reasons for your answer.
  2. Read Romans 10, and then explain fully why preachers are necessary.
  3. Suppose you had, or thought you had, a good message from the Lord, and you found you only had a few to listen to you – what would you do?
  4. If your congregation were mostly factory workers; miners, agricultural workers, clerks, trades people; (choose appropriate class), what two good illustrations or stories would you use to picture the gospel to them?  Write these out.
  5. How would you set about to find the need of your congregation in order to prepare your message?
  6. In reading through the book of Acts, how many congregations listening to someone preaching can you find?  Which was the largest – and the smallest – of these?  Give references in each case.
  7. In the gospel of Mark write out a list of the occasions when Jesus spoke or preached to the multitudes.
  8. Who was the first recorded preacher in the Bible?  Who were his congregation?  Give your references.
  9. Why did Peter preach about the Holy Spirit and the Ascended Christ of the day of Pentecost?
  10. What were the chief subjects of the sermons of the following in the book of Acts?  Peter (chap 3) Stephen (chp7) Philip (chap 8) Peter (chp10) Paul (chap 13)

 

 

Gleanings

Do not allow yourself to be affected by the nature of the audience, as to numbers, social or educational character, or as to the presence or absence of particular persons.  Know none after the flesh.  Accustom yourself to regard those who are friends or acquaintances, and even relatives after the flesh, as no longer so, but only as sinners with souls to be saved and edified.

Address yourself to the individual.  See before you not a mass, with a corporate personality of its own greater than that of the greatest of the individuals composing it, but individuals, each with his own personality, that and no more.  Address yourself to, not an impersonal mass, but individuals, of whom each personality is separate and distinct, and must be severally and individually got at, moved, convinced and permanently influenced.  Conceive yourself sometimes as speaking only to a single individual, in who you are personally, deeply and affectionately interested; dealing directly between him and you alone, yearning over him, pleading with him, pressing him home, persuading him, bringing all your love and tact and power to bear upon him, eager to win him for Christ.

Aim at the conversion and building up on individuals, which is perhaps more easily effected when the congregation is small than when it is large.

Do not mistake the excitement which arises from the presence of masses of people, for the unction which descends from the Spirit of God.

Do not under-estimate your hearer’s intelligence.  Assume that they know nothing, but keep that assumption to yourself.  The ignorance of the Christian faith on the part of many is colossal.  But though you may have to begin by assuming that they know nothing, do not assume that they have no intelligence.  If they see that we are enthralled by the gospel and on fire with it, they will be prepared to think it through with us.

 

 

 

WHAT SHALL I PREACH?

(STUDY 3)

 

INTRODUCTION

The answer which readily comes to our minds and lips is the one given as a Motto Text at the beginning of our Studies, viz. ‘Preach the Word’.  Of course, it is the right answer and we shall do well to consider carefully how important it is for us to do this.  We have found, and we shall yet find how much easier it is to preach anything but the Word of God.  Some delight to tell stories just to amuse the congregation; others like to talk about happening around them in order to interest the people; while others even dare to speak on political subjects in the pulpit – and that is sure to lead to unprofitable controversy.  How sad it is that the church pulpit can be used for such unworthy ends!

But if we have heard His command, ‘Go and preach the Gospel…’ in our hearts, and if that ‘Go’ has thereby become more than a word, but a living energy burning like fire in our very bones (Jer 20:9), and moreover, if we have heard His ‘Lo! I am with you all the days…’ with its blessed assurance not only of His abiding companionship, but also of His active co-operation in our service (1 Cor 9:16); then we may well cry, like Paul, ‘Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel’ (1 Cor 9:16), and fear lest at any time we leave out or lose that ringing note in our preaching.

A preacher who fills his message with stories only, is like a salesman at a market stall; displaying all he has got.  He has no rich store of the gospel hidden away in his heart, and so he will not be likely to draw many people to be saved; whereas the preacher who uses just a few stories to illustrate the rich wealth of the gospel which he has stored up in his experience, is like the storekeeper displaying so many of his goods on the shop counter in order to attract people to buy, but has most of his goods stored away in the other rooms; it is he who will be most likely to draw many to long to know the Saviour he has come to know.

The best way to learn how to use stories is to read the gospels, and note the way in which the Lord used them to bring home His message to the hearts of His hearers.  The charm of illustrations lies in the fact that they are not abstractions but concrete facts.

First of all, then, PREACH THE WORD; then you will not be tempted to waste time in preaching irrelevant subjects savouring of politics, etc.  For it is when a person is saved that he is most likely to become a faithful, law abiding subject of his country or community (Rom 13).  Never preach a sermon in which the way of salvation is not clearly declared in some way or another.  A doctrine which has no practical application in it is out of place in the pulpit.  Above all, preach the really practical doctrine of the death-resurrection of Christ.  It is only as this subject is put back into its central position in our teaching and preaching that we shall get revival, and that a new glow of life will return to our churches.  We cannot, and must not, neglect the Cross in our preaching; it is as the root to the plant, and the more we ourselves grow in knowledge and in the grace of Christ, and deepen in personal experience of His death in us, the more we shall find that our messages, whenever they are taken from the Word, will draw their life and power from that wondrous Death.

Let us now consider some vital ways of preaching the Word; we shall study just three of the most important of these methods, and call them – the TopicalTextual Teaching methods.

 

  1. Topical Method.

Some books have been published with the title, ‘Topical Text Book’.  They give an alphabetical list of subjects found in the Bible, together with Scripture references and simple facts and lessons connected with each subject or topic.  Such a book can be very helpful to the student in choosing a topic and in searching for all the references connected with it in the Bible.  The ‘Chain Reference’ method (used in the Scofield and Thomson Bibles) is another helpful way of following up references connected with a particular subject, right through Scripture.  Each reference is like a link in a chain.

You need not be discouraged, however, if these books or Bibles are not available to you.  A good Reference Bible (with a Concordance) will be quite sufficient, if your heart is set to know the truth and to become a channel of it to others.  Then the Bible itself becomes the ideal ‘Topical Text Book’ and what an endless store of topics of all kinds it contains!  They are topics, moreover, that have to do with all conditions and circumstances of life, and more up to date than any newspaper or book now being printed.  Because the Bible is ‘inspired’, the Spirit can make the topics alive to you and to others, creating interest as well as inspiring to action.  Besides this, if you a faithful student of your Bible, the Spirit of God will provide the best Chain Reference for He will link up Scripture with Scripture in such a way that will make you marvel and humble yourself at His feet because of the wealth of truth that He reveals.  This is natural, for ‘He shall guide you into all truth’.

 

Your choice of topic for your message will depend upon the need of the congregation, as the Spirit will reveal to you in prayer; or the season of the year (such as Harvest, Christmas, New Year) will influence you in making a suitable choice; or again some happening in your locality will direct you to a timely and fitting subject.

As an example, you may feel that certain members are hard and ungrateful, and this may lead you to choose ‘kindness’ as your subject.  What a wealth of references to this word you will find in your Bible.  It will be worth while reading up all these references carefully and prayerfully, so that the Holy Spirit may have a chance of bringing them home with new light and power to the heart.  Also He will inspire you to link up the ones which will be useful to you in your message.  There is a simple threefold division which can be applied to almost any topic chosen.  Here it is:-

(a)         Meaning      What does it really mean?

(b)         Manner        How does it work out practically?

(c)         Motive         What will, or should be the result?

For example, in dealing with the topic of ‘kindness’, you will first of all form a short Introduction, in which you describe the prevailing spirit of ingratitude in the human heart.  Best of all, you may know of something which has really happened to prove this, in your locality.  If so, you can commence you Introduction with the story and then point out the fact of Ingratitude.  If you cannot find an incident from daily life, there are many in the Bible.  But, remember, one story will be enough, for your Introduction must be short!

Then you can deal with the Meaning of Kindness.  In your list of references you will have been able to fix upon one or two to show this.  E.g. David and Mephibosheth (2 Sam: 9); Rahab (Joh2); Ruth (1-4) etc.

Next will come the Manner in which Kindness works.  Again look up your references and illustrate.  Kindness is generally shown in word and action.  E.g. Proverbs 31:26; 2 Cor 6:6; Psalm 141:5.  What a strange way of showing kindness!

Finally, you will consider the Motive or the result of it all.  See Jer 31:3; Rom 12:21; Eph 4:32 etc. (We are drawn closer to Him and to one another, thereby overcoming evil.)

The climax of your message is reached when you apply it to your hearers, not forgetting to point them to the Cross, where the Lord Jesus gave the supreme example of His kindness towards us, undeserving sinners (Eph 2:7; Tit 3:4).

 

Another simple way of treatment, after a short Introduction would be to ask three questions –           (i) Why should I be kind?

(ii) To whom should I be kind?

(iii) What will happen if I am kind?

 

Let us next consider the

 

II. Textual Method

 

In this way of preaching, you will choose a special Text for your message, from Scripture.  It does not mean that you gather your thoughts and words together first, and then look for a Text to fit it all.  You must not use the Text as a nail upon which to hang your own carnal thoughts and opinions.  Many preachers dare to do that!  Your text should, best of all, be brought to your mind during your daily reading of the Word.  As you are faithful in this exercise (see Jos 1; Ps 1) the Holy Spirit will take hold of a text and light it up to you with new meaning, and also lay it upon your heart as a burden.  You should then meditate upon it and let the spirit link up other Scriptures, together with illustrations from daily life or Scripture.

It is this that makes the Bible the most wonderful Text book in the world.  For whenever any text is chosen, all the truth in the Bible is needed really to explain it – as if the Holy Spirit will focus all the light of the Word upon that particular verse or portion chosen.  It will be helpful for you to keep a special notebook handy for recording any text suggested in your daily reading.  Thus you will have a good list to choose from when preparing your message.

How then should you preach from a text?  Shall we take an example –?

“Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else”. (Isa 45:22)

As before, commence your message with a short introduction, describing the context, such as, who wrote the words, what were the circumstances under which the words were spoken etc.  In this case, the words were spoken through the mouth is Isaiah the prophet – the gospel prophet.  How important then that we listen to what HE has to say!  Though these words were actually spoken some thousands of years ago, they are alive today, and just as timely.  The chief thought is ‘LOOK’.  How simple a command, reminding us of its importance in the case of Israel. (Num 21)

 

 

Really we are so helpless as sinners, that all we can do is to look to Jesus in order to be saved.  He has done all for us.  (Of course, it presupposes a consciousness of such helplessness0.  Faith means a looking away from self to HIM.

When a text is to be the basis for your message, it is best always to choose simple headings for your divisions.  Avoid longs words, which will only confuse your message, and which your congregation will not be able to understand.  This particular text happens to lend itself to simple division headings in the form of questions –

(a)         Who are to look?             All the ends of the earth.

(b)         Where are they to look?  Unto Me.

(c)         Why are they to look?     I am God

(d)        What will happen?           Saved

 

Here then will be four headings – for one cannot always limit them to three.  We have given only the bare outline, which you can fill in with illustrations etc.  The Application to your hearers will be the climax of your message, exhorting them to look in order to be saved.  It is worth remembering that great English preacher (the prince of preachers) Spurgeon, was saved through this message by quite an ordinary local preacher.  He just ‘looked’ and was soundly saved!

 

Finally let us consider the:-

 

III.  TEACHING METHOD

Of course, in one sense, every message should ‘teach’ your hearers something new about the Lord.  But here we are dealing with a message which is aimed altogether at teaching some particular aspect of truth to His people.  For such a message, it is usual and best to choose a portion of Scripture consisting of a number of verses; sometimes it could be a short Psalm; at other times it could be a chapter or portion of a chapter.  Such a method is called the Expository Method, and is held by many to be the best of all.

The first thing to do is to get the main theme of your portion and then choose out the main lessons dealing with that particular theme, as found in that portion.  It will afford good training in ‘keeping to the point’, and will avoid an aimless wandering through the Bible.

As an example, we could take Romans 6.  The theme is undoubtedly that of our death, burial and resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ.  After reading aloud the chapter to your congregation, you could give a short introduction, explaining that Jesus died not only to take our sins away, but to take us also, our sinful nature, to death with Him.  Only by so doing could we be freed from sin’s power.  So many Christians know only the joy of forgiveness of sins, but not the joy of freedom from its power.  This surely is the meaning of baptism in water.  Of course, water baptism in itself does not free us – it is only an ordinance picturing the actual blessed fact apprehended by our faith.

You will find three ‘key’ words which will then convey the truth concerning this ‘death union’ with our Lord.  They are: Knowing v6, Reckon v11, Yield or Present v13.

The three words provide three lines of thought for your teaching message on this wonderful chapter.

(a)         Knowing.  We must ‘know’ the fact of our death with Him before we can really experience it.  This knowing moreover, is not merely a mental apprehension, but it is a knowledge ‘of the heart’ – the Spirit has witnessed the fact in our Spirits, and we know in a way that we cannot explain, as really as we know that our sins are forgiven, that we ‘have died’ once for all with Him.

(b)         Reckoning.  This follows upon Knowing, We ‘reckon’ because we ‘know’.  We do not ‘reckon’ in order to make the fact real, but we reckon because it is already a fact and real to us in our spirits.

(c)         Yielding.  Again, this follows the ‘reckoning’ – because we are now ‘counting’ or taking for granted, that we have died with Him; we put it, therefore, into practice by ‘presenting’ our members as instruments of righteousness, giving them over unto God to do that which is good.  It is not trying to be or do good, but in this ‘newness of life’, united with Him in His resurrection, we just are good and do good.

The application of your message is evident – it should bring the fact home to the hearts of your hearers, exhorting them to be sure that they have entered by faith into this experience; for without it, there can be no growth nor progress.  The important thing in this kind of message is to keep within the bounds of your chapter or portion chosen.

In conclusion, just as ‘he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification (building up) and exhortation (bracing up) and comfort (bracing up) 1 Cor 14:3, so the preacher may be said in the Teaching Method to ‘build up’; in the Textual Method to ‘brace up’; in the Topical Method to ‘bear up’.

 

Questions:

  1.  What dangers are we to avoid in preaching the Word?
  2.  Whatever subject we choose, there is one thing we should never leave out.  What is it and why should we include it?
  3. How do stories help in our message?
  4. How should I prepare myself to find a text on which to preach?
  5. In a gospel service, what kind of message should I choose?  Explain why.
  6. Trace the main topics in the following:

 

Sermon on the Mount. Matt5-7

Peter’s sermon. Acts 2

Paul’s sermon. Acts 13

  1.  What text in Scripture would best suit the story of the Good Samaritan? Give your reasons
  2. If you chose Phil 2 1-11 as a Teaching message, what would be your main theme and divisions?
  3. Taking the topic of Jesus praying in the Gospel of Luke (looking up all references there) write out a simple message.
  4. Taking as your text, Isaiah 1:18 write out a simple Gospel message.

 

 

GLEANINGS

“Speak forth the words of truth and soberness” Paul in Acts 26:25

“Just jump in and splash about” Duke of Wellington- how not to do it!

“First I explains, then I expounds, then I puts in the rouse-ums!” – good advice by an unlettered negro preacher.

Your headings should be brief, weighty expression, which both suggest truth and recall the talk afterwards.  They should conform in grammatical styles – being either all proposition, all phrases or all questions.

“A preacher ought so to preach that when the sermon is ended, the congregation shall disperse saying, “ the preacher said this”. Luther.

Exposition is the direct opposite of imposition.  The expository preacher comes to the text, not with his mind made up, resolved to impose a meaning on it, but with his mind open to receive a message from it in order to convey it to others.

“I have long pursued the study of Scripture with a desire to be impartial.  In the beginning of my enquiries I said to myself, I am a fool; of that I am quite certain.  One thing I know assuredly, that in religion, of myself, I know nothing.  I do not therefore sit down to the perusal of Scripture in order to impose a sense on the inspired writers, but to receive one, as they give it to me.  I pretend not to teach them; I wish like a child to be taught by them”. (Simeon)

The dearest desire of the expository preacher is so to speak as to let the Scriptures themselves speak, and so to preach that afterwards the sermon is eclipsed by the growing splendour of the text itself.

Three stages are essential in preparation of material, as well as in the reception of the message – a) the Congregation must understand the meaning of the text. b) they must grasp the relevance of the text to their situation. c) they must feel the urgency of the message.

Metaphors:  Sower of seed given. Builder not with own materials.  Herald of news not of own devising. Workman not of own road. Steward, not of own goods.

 

WHEN SHALL I PREACH?

(STUDY 4)

INTRODUCTION

CalendarAs we listen to this question – “When shall I preach?” – almost immediately there comes the response, ‘in season and out of season’ (2 Tim 4:2) and the context implies that we are to be on the alert (attentive-instant) to do so on all occasion, whether favourable or not, and to apply its challenge (of the Word) to our hearers both in rebuke and in comfort with unfailing patience and comprehensive instruction.  We must expect to hurt before we can heal.

Such ‘alertness’ implies a readiness at all times to preach the Word, and not only at the times we have been specifically planned to preach at a certain church or place.  How foolish it would be for a man to apply for a post, say as a teacher in a school, unless he had spent years of training at some college and passed certain qualifying examinations!  And yet, strange to say, many so-called ‘preachers’ seem to neglect any preparation, and to think that they have only to ‘open their mouth wide’ and the Lord will fill it.  They forget that the Lord will only fill their mouth from within them, from the store of His Word of truth which they have laid up in their hears. (Jo 7:38).  If there has not been such a storing up in mind and heart, then when we stand up to preach, we may be eloquent, we may have plenty to say, but there is no life in it; it is we who are filling our own mouth with words, and not the Spirit giving utterance.  The command to the women at the tomb was to ‘go and tell’ not to ‘go and talk’ – we can only really ‘tell’ what we have seen and experienced ourselves (Acts 4:20).  Paul’s emphasis on the need of preparation can be gleaned from his words to Timothy ( 1 Tim 4 6-16).

Just as Adam was told that ‘in the sweat of they face shalt thou eat bread’ (Gen 3:19) so it is true that it will demand the ‘sweat’ of honest preparation if we are to provide the bread of His Word to our hearers.  Preaching that costs nothing will accomplish nothing.  David of old would offer nothing to the Lord but what had cost him (2 Sam 24:24, 1 Chron 29:1-5).  Indeed it will cost us our very life to preach really and truly; it will be the serious business of our life; everything will have to bend to our message.  For the preparation of a message is the work not of minutes, not of hours, but of years, of a life.

How then can we prepare ourselves, so that we shall always be ready ‘in season and out of season’ to preach the Word of truth?  We would suggest three important ways:

 

(1)  DILIGENT STUDY   (2) DEVOTIONAL EXERCISE   (3) DAILY OBSERVATION

 

(1)        DILIGENT STUDY (Investigation of Truth)

This must come first, for if we are to preach the Word, then we must know all we can about that Word, its contexts and contents, as well as how and when to handle it aright.  It was wise and timely counsel that Paul gave to Timothy – ‘Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).  The Greek word for ‘rightly dividing’ (orthotomein) has had varied disputed renderings.  Calvin held that it alluded to a father’s division of food to his children; Beza – to the Levitical sacrificial system; but Theodorot comes nearer the mark when he speaks of ‘driving a straight furrow, tracing the metaphor to ploughing. Cf Proverbs 3:6; 11:5.  Every teacher and preacher of the Word should present a straightforward exegosis (exposition); as the subject-matter is trustworthy, let it be trustily handled.

Such diligent study helps you to know your subject so well, that you can lose yourself in it, and not be exposed to a sense of weakness, by a consciousness that you have not done your best in the way of preparation.  Profitable study must be methodical.  It will mean sitting with determination to your task, and not allowing anything to interfere with your period of study.  You will need to choose a definite Time; Subject; Method.

(a)         Time:  Undoubtedly the best time is the morning hour, when mind and heart are freshest – as the dew upon the grass, before the duties and calls of the day have come to claim your attention.

(b)         Subject:  It is best to work through a special book, either in the Old or New testament.  We should read through the book first, and several times.  A noted Bible teacher said that he read through a book fifty times before he started to make any outlines upon it.  Do not rely upon commentaries, but look to the Holy Spirit to guide.  A commentary can be a help later, when there is a difficult point to understand, and when its thoughts may help to fill in the outline of truth already in our mind, which we have obtained from our own meditation.  We shall thus be delivered from the habit of relying upon other men for all our thoughts, thereby becoming a second-hand (and second rate) preacher.  We should not forget our notebook, but always have it with us in our study periods, in order to record out discoveries and inspirations.

 

 

 

 

(c)         Method:  We should study the Word.

Critically                in order to know WHAT to believe.

Devotionally          in order to know WHOM to love.

Practically              in order to know HOW to live.

 

Such thorough study of the Word will prepare us for the best kind of preaching – what is called Expository preaching, which means – preaching that expounds or explains the Word clearly.  It was the favourite method of our Lord, as well as of Paul and Peter.  Such a methodical study and storing of the Word will make us ever ready for the Holy Spirit to use us.  When men see that we cannot help speaking ( for we are so bursting with good news – Luke 24:32-34) that they will willingly give us their attention – they will sense that we are not talking merely for the sake of talking but that we are telling them something.

We should regard ourselves as ‘mouthpieces’ of God and servants of His Word – standing under as well as upon His Word.  We speak as the ‘oracles of God’.  Our task is not an imposition (fastening on to Scripture texts meanings which they do not bear), nor is it juxtaposition (using our text as a peg on which to hang some homily unrelated to it), but it must be precisely exposition – extracting from the text what God has encased within it.

‘I never preach’ said Charles Simeon, ‘unless I feel satisfied that I have the mind of God as regards the sense of the passage’.

We should aim not so much to speak for our text, as to let it speak for itself; the sermon must serve the text, not vice versa.

‘A sermon should be like a telescope; each successive diversion of it should be as an additional lens, bringing the subject of your text nearer and making it more distinct’.  Let the text shape the sermon, ‘so that no other text in the Bible will suit the discourses’.

The Puritan way of ‘opening’ a text was, first, to explain it in its context, (a text without a context is a pretext); next, to extract from the text one or more doctrinal observations embodying its substance, to amplify, illustrate and confirm from other Scriptures the truths thus derived; and finally, to draw out their practical implications for the hearers.

It follows that the meaning of single texts cannot be properly discerned till they are seen in relation to the rest of the ‘body’ of Scripture; and conversely, that the better one’s grasp of the whole, the more significance one will see in each part.  To be a good expositor, therefore, one must first be a good theologian.  For theology is what God has put into the texts of Scripture, and theology is what preachers must draw out of them. ‘If you are not theologians’ said Spurgeon to his students, ‘in your pastorates you are just nothing at all.’  Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.

Puritan preachers knew the value of orderliness, of clear headings; for they taught their congregations to memorise the sermons they heard, looking up references and taking down notes if need be, so that they could repeat them afterwards and meditate on them during the week.  The ministry of the Word was a co-operative activity in which the laity should labour to learn just as hard as the minister laboured to teach.  But they also used plain language, avoiding any rhetorical display that might divert attention from God to themselves, and talking to their congregations in plain, straightforward, homely English, without being slipshod and vulgar, however.  Dignified simplicity was their ideal.  Words were treated not as orator’s playthings, but entirely as servants of a noble meaning.  Bunyan and Baxter are fine examples.

 

(2)        DEVOTIONAL EXERCISE (Inspiration of Spirit)

This really should be the breath or atmosphere of our study – learning to wait upon God in stillness of soul, hushing our own thoughts, which will keep trying to crowd upon our minds.  We shall often have to say, “Be still, my soul, wait thou only upon God”.  Thus we shall get a sense of His living, speaking presence.  Are we not told that ‘he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him”?  (Heb 11:6) There are many portions and phrases in the Psalms which will help us in our approach to God, as we use them in faith, allowing the Spirit to prepare our heart for receiving light upon His Word.  “Open thou my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law”.  Such spiritual light will then become life to our own selves, and so later to our hearers.

“The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits”.

This means that before we can feed our congregation, we must first feed upon the truth ourselves – we must taste it first before handing it to others (Jo 2:9, !6:14)

If we do not enjoy the Word ourselves, how can we expect other to do so? True feeding is more a matter of the heart than of the mind (Psa 78:72).  We shall then know what it means to ‘speak the truth in love’, when our chief felling before the congregation will be that of a measureless compassion.  Here again we can learn much from the old Puritan preachers.

 

 

Their supreme concern was to bring men to know God, and they spoke as holy, experienced Christians who knew what they were talking about.  As John Owen put it, ‘a man preacheth that sermon only well to others, which preacheth itself in his own soul… if the Word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us’.  Their strenuous exercise in meditation and prayer, their sensitiveness to sin and utter humility, their passion for holiness and glowing devotion to Christ, equipped them to be master-physicians of the soul.  Deep called to deep when they preached, for they spoke of the black depths and high peaks of Christian experience first-hand.  An old Christian, who heard young Spurgeon, still in his teens, said of him ‘he was as experimental as if he were a hundred years old in the faith’.  They sought to preach ‘as if death were at their back – as one that never should preach again, and as a dying man to dying men’.

The efficacy of the sword is dependent, not so much upon its sharpness of point, or keenness of edge; still less upon its burnished brightness, or jewelled hilt; as upon the vital force and energy of him who wields it.  Even so, the effective spiritual vital force of the preacher is to be derived, not from books, nor from intellectual ability or culture, nor from mastery of the art or artifice of human oratory; nor from inward excitement or outward stimulant, but from the indwelling Presence of God, transforming and transfiguring the whole man, and filling him with the Power of God.  And this power is communicated only to him who has overcome the world, has died to himself, has crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts, and lives and abides in God.

 

(3)        DAILY OBSERVATION (Illustration of Facts)

 

Since preaching is a ‘life’ work, it cannot be confined to our study hours, or to our prayer times.  Preaching must touch life at every point.  The preacher must ever remember that he stands not only in the presence of His Master, but also in the presence of mortal men and earthly conditions.  When we are in the house, or on the road, we should be alive and sensitive to all that the Lord has to teach us in the things and events around us.  It does not mean that we have to notice everything in order just to talk about them, and so become ‘gossips’; but we should ‘see’ them with His eyes, and so learn valuable lessons, which can then be used as illustrations to bear home the truth in our messages to our hearers.  Such illustrations will convince them that we are in touch with their lives and circumstances.  This was the method of our Lord, and how crowded are His discourses with pictures from nature.

It is true that He, the sinless Son of God, the Creator of all things would see in those things, as no one else could, their innate purpose in relation to the human race, for whole enjoyment and use they had been created, and so He could deduce from them timely and apt spiritual lessons for His disciples and the crowds who listened.  What an intensely interesting and profitable study it would be to glean in the gospels, all the objects he made use of to illustrate His teaching!

It was Shakespeare who said that it was possible to see ‘stories in streams’, books in the running brooks’, and ‘good in everything’.  Hence we should keep our eyes and ears open to such lessons; they will be even better than getting illustrations from books.  The whole question of illustrations is really one of clarity – of making clearer by concrete examples what we wish to convey of abstract truth.  Dr Campbell Morgan gave this simple formula for their use. “Let your illustrations be such as shine into your sermon, and not illustrations that you drag in.  You have heard men preach, and they tell a story; but the story has really no vital relationship with their message.  The put it in, and it relieves the congregation, making them smile at the moment perhaps, but it has no relation to the sermon”.  That is ‘dragging in’ an illustration.  Bring illustrations such that they shine into the very heart of the sermon.  One of the most skilful in this that I have known was Dr Jowett, while Rev W.L Watkinson was another.

Dr Jowett’s illustrations always shone into his main them.  You never went away with the illustration as the supreme thing; it was there to illuminate.  I remember hearing him in Birmingham, when he said ‘Human and divine divisions of humanity are radically different.  Divine divisions are perpendicular; human divisions are horizontal’.  Then he picked up his hymn-book, held it upright and said ‘I will show you what I mean.  That is perpendicular division – to the right and to the left; that is divine’.  Then holding it flat – ‘This is horizontal – upper, middle and lower classes; that is human’.  That is a great illustration!

Closely related to the habit of daily observation, for the purpose of sermon illustration, is the practice of Open-air preaching.  ‘It is within anyone’s power to stand upon a stone and tell those who will listen to him what he knows of the kingdom of God’.  Not only is it a fine discipline, but also excellent training in being ready with an answer to a heckler, often by using some illustration from the environment of the meeting.

It is so important for the hearers to see the point of the preacher as he sees it.  He must drive it into their minds, and this can only be done by good illustrations.  An illustration is like a window that lets in the light.  There may be profound truth in the subject-matter of the discourse; there may be the most vital doctrines discussed; there may by statements made that concern individuals personally; but what are they to him as long as he cannot see them, and appreciate their force.  To understand such things he must be able to see all that they contain, and it is here where appropriate illustrations help.  Often a truth has to be driven into the mind by repetition, and this can weary the congregation unless the preacher can vary his illustrations, so as to present the truth in different ways, and so make it always acceptable.  This is one of the secrets of effective exposition.

Illustrations that will be found to be the most effective and apposite and the most important to the preacher are those which he will be able to make for himself.  Books of anecdotes are, at best, only crutches to help a lame man along – and the best crutch is not equal to a leg in its normal condition!  In preparing our discourses we should always make use of our own resources before we turn to others for help.  Illustrations, like many other good things, can be sometimes pushed to extremes.  A preacher who fills up his sermon with nice ‘storyettes’ will command but little respect from his congregation.  Some preachers are mere story-tellers; they are not teachers; they do not instruct their people in sound doctrine; they merely entertain them for so many minutes, rather than bring them to a vital place of decision.

Finally, it is important to cultivate the habit of illustrating, and it is surprising how this habit will grow and how soon it will bear fruit.  A man’s study should be everywhere – in the house, in the street, in the fields and the busy haunts of men.

 

Questions:

  1.  What does Paul mean by preaching ‘in season, out of season’?
  2. Will the Lord ‘give me utterance’ if I have not prepared my message?  Give full reasons for your answer.
  3. Why is study of the Word so important for the preacher?
  4. Can I become a good preacher if I neglect my life  of communion with God?  Why not?
  5. ‘Keep your eyes and ears open’. What does this mean for a preacher?
  6. Describe instances in the book of Acts, when the apostles and others preached (a) in season (b) out of season.
  7. Timothy is exhorted by Paul to ‘take heed to thyself and to the doctrine’ (1 Tim 4:16).  In this Epistle (1 Timothy) write out the verses which refer to (a) what he has to do concerning himself (b) what he has to do concerning his teaching.
  8. Taking 2 Tim 3:16, as your text, write out a message on the Word of God based on the following outline:

(a)         Origin                   inspiration

(b)         Operation  profitable for..

(c)         Outcome    man of God…thoroughly furnished.

  1.  In the gospel of Luke, make a list of the occasions upon which the Lord is said to have prayed.  Divide into two groups – Reasons why He prayed; Results from His praying.
  2. In the gospel of Mark, name the things and creatures which our Lord used to illustrate the truth He wished to give.

WHY SHOULD I PREACH?

(STUDY 5)

Introduction

This question can lead us to a searching but profitable inquiry as to our real motive for desiring to undertake this sacred work.  Is it because we are gifted with ready speech?  Then we should remember Solomon’s words (Proverbs 10:19, 15:2) and Paul’s (1 Cor 2:1-5).  Arising out of the gift of eloquence will be the seeking of an opportunity to become famous or popular amongst our people – forgetting that ‘he who exalts himself shall be humbled’ )Matt 23:12)  Again, we may think that preaching is a more respectable calling than any form of manual labour.  It is true that preaching the Gospel is the most honourable calling on earth – but the honour is of God and not always of men – for if we really preach a clear uncompromising gospel, it will bring upon us reproach or even persecution, such as was experienced by Paul (2 Cor 4) and our Lord (Mk 10:30).

 

The true, divine motive for our ministry, however cannot be better expressed than in the words of Paul – “ The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor 5:14)  Paul had caught a vision of Christ’s love for him, as shown by His death for us all, and that love held him captive, a bond-slave to the end.

The word, ‘constrain’ (Greek, sunechei) meaning literally, ‘holds together’, is a bold one.  It is used of those in the grip of various diseases (Matt 4:24).  Peter’s mother-in-law was held in the power of a fever (Luke 4:38).  The Gadarenes were seized with great fear when they saw what Christ had done to the demoniac (Luke 8:37).  The multitudes pressed Jesus together almost to suffocation (Luke 8:45).  Jesus felt the pressure in His spirit till His baptism of blood be received (Luke 12:50).  When Stephen told of seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God, the Sanhedrin held their hands over their ears (Acts 7:57)  When Timothy and Silas came to Corinth from Thessalonica, Paul held himself continuously to the word of preaching (Acts 18:5).  Paul later felt himself in a strait betwixt two, whether to stay or depart and be with Christ.

These are the chief New Testament examples of the use of this word.  The love of Christ holds Paul fast- a love that will not let him go.  In a sense Paul has no choice, since, as in a vice, he is held fast by the love of Christ.  It is more than the ‘categorical imperative’ of duty; it is the magnet of a love that is irresistible, once one has yielded oneself to its power.  The mother is the slave of her sick child- she cannot help herself, if she has a mother’s heart!  But this high pressure together (Greek, sun) creates a mighty propulsion and energy.  The constraint is not restraint – it is impulse. (The Vulgate has, ‘urget nos’).  The boiler that holds the steam makes possible the onward pressure that drives the engine and draws the train.  So the love of Christ presses us hard, harasses us, so that we have no rest save in pushing on for Christ.  Christ’s love lets us have no peace.

In this word, then, Paul has revealed the master-passion and motive of his ministry.  He has no desire to get beyond Christ. Jesus is ever with him, and ever lures him on to higher heights.  With unwearied tread Paul presses on towards the goal.  In his darkest hours he hears the footfall of Christ at his side; ‘Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee”.  To Paul, Christ was all and in all (Col 3:11).  He does not look on Christ as he once did- ‘ after the flesh’.  He has gone far beyond that stage; the new view of Christ has made a new world for him; he looks at everything from a new angle of vision.  He has a new motive in life, a new passion, a new outlook.  He has found the secret of real life – it is CHRIST!

It is significant that law, medicine, education have their own professional standards and etiquette, but the personal life of lawyer, doctor or teacher is of no direct concern to the profession.  The minister’s case is different, because his work is different.  “We are pledged to a consecrated life, not merely to the pursuit of a profession.  Our work is the public aspect and formal expression of our life, which is altogether ‘holy to the Lord’.”

Thus it will be seen that our motive for preaching the Word must be holy and divine, with no taint of self in it.  Indeed the very nature of the Word which we preach demands this, for it is His Word, and when he speaks, He does so in order to reach the hears of men, to save them and bring them back to Himself.  Again, because the essence of His Word is Life through the Death of the Cross, all it calls for is simple Faith in what He has already DONE.  Believe and Live!

Hence the fundamental motive of all true preaching is to lead the hearers to BELIEVE – Sinners that they may be saved – Saints that they may be sanctified.  Now Believing or Faith is a vast subject, as great as its Object.  For Faith is precious only as it leans on what is trustworthy, and it is produced not by thinking of Faith itself, but of its proper object.  Christ did not come preaching Faith, but preaching the gospel of God, and bidding men believe IN that (Mk 1:14).  The ‘believe’ is really lost in Him who is believed.  The faith goes out of the ‘I’ into the Object.  It does not try to realise itself apart from the one or the other.

It is our supreme task to exalt Him, to make Him the focus for the attention of all our hearers.  That has, as a corollary, our aim to get out of the light ourselves.  ‘He must increase; I must decrease’.  We are the ‘best man’, not the Bridegroom!  This approach to speaking will set us free both from over-anxiety to please, and from over-carefulness when we have displeased.  Indeed, it may be a sign of failure when we are complimented on a ‘wonderful address’.  A truer measure of success will be achieved when our audience quietly slips away to face our big issues with God.  Making much of Christ will save us from any touch of pomposity or professionalism.  It will sometimes lead us to cut out a very fine, passage of rhetoric which tends to minister to our vanity rather than to exalt the Saviour.  As we wait on God, we shall become increasingly sensitive to such matters.

Our ruling motive then in our message will be to get men to BELIEVE (Jo 20:31).  This is threefold in its aim.  For to get men to believe, we shall have to aim at their Minds (to illuminate); their Affections (to inflame with desire); their Wills ( to inspire to action).  But before men will believe, they must repent.  Repentance  is the gateway to Faith.  It was the first note in the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt3:2); our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 4:17); of Peter (Acts 2:38) of Paul (Acts 17:30; 20:21).

The last Scripture quoted gives the two sides of Faith – the negative side towards God, and the positive side towards our Lord Jesus Christ – ‘Repentance toward God, and Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’.  These two aspects therefore will enter into our message as we week to get souls, first to SEE; then to FEEL; and finally to ACT.  We shall consider these separately.

 

  1.  THE MIND

We should aim first of all at getting souls to SEE.  Scripture declares plainly that the mind and understanding of man has been darkened because of sin. (Eph 4:18), and this is true of all, rich or poor, high or low, intelligent or ignorant.  His darkness is ‘gross darkness’ like that which ‘was upon the face of the deep’ in the beginning. (Gen 1:2).  Light must come from another source.  It came then – ‘And God said, Let there be light’.  But that same God can ‘shine in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.  (2 Cor 4:3-6)  This enlightening had the priority in Paul’s ministry. (Acts 26:18)

 

It was a Puritan maxim that ‘all grace enters by the understanding’.  God does not move men to action by mere physical violence, but addresses their minds by His Word, and calls for the response of deliberate consent and intelligent obedience.  It follows that every man’s duty first is to explain it.  The only way to the heart that he is authorised to take runs via the head.  So that the minister who does not make it his prime business, in season and out of season, to teach the Word of God, does not do his job, and the sermon which, whatever else it may be, is not a didactic exposition of Scripture, is not worthy of the name.

This enlightening of the mind can only be experience through the Word of God (Psalm 119:130) and the Spirit of God –the Word preached in the power of the Spirit.  The Word without the Spirit will kill, for it is the Spirit alone who can give it life. (2 Cor 3:6)  The first effect of the Word then is to bring light, and the first work of the Holy Spirit in the soul is to enlighten (Eph 1:17-18).  This light will show that in man there is nothing essentially good or that can save him.  Even a man’s religion and morality really condemn him; for he does not seek God but himself (even in his religion).  The Word states that this sentence of death has been passed on all men. ‘For there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’.  With this truth the salvation of men must begin, for no man will ask to be pardoned if he is not first convinced that he is under sentence of death.  The humanity of Christ and the Cross of Christ is the categorical sentence on men.  From men there is no way to God.  So incomprehensively great is the sin of man, that God could save us only by becoming a man.  Christ had to die for us, and by so cruel a death of the Cross, involving the paradox of being God-forsaken!

This Light, therefore, works in two ways; it brings Repentance and it begets Faith – the two aspects which we have already noted above.  In Repentance, the soul is awakened to its true condition of sinfulness, coming short of the glory of God.  This is true of sinner and saint alike.  He is led to say, ‘I have sinned’, like the prodigal (Luke 15:18) and David (2 Sam 12:13).  Then comes Faith – for the same Light which reveals the soul’s sinfulness points to the Saviour who on the cross was made sin for him.

 

  1.  THE AFFECTIONS

Seeing awakens the Feelings.  The soul not only recognises its sinfulness, but feels regret for it; like the prodigal, ‘I am not worthy’ (Luke 15:19).  It sorrows for its sin.  The this Regret for Repentance leads to the Regard of Faith in the Saviour, for ‘He is worthy’.  So just as the Light of God through His Word and by His Spirit worked Recognition of Sin on one hand and a Realisation of His Salvation on the other, so the Love of God works a Regret for Sin and a Regard for the Saviour.  Thus our message should not only bring Light to the Mind, but also create a hatred of sin and Love for God in the Affections.

We must speak to the heart as well as to the understanding.  While we attack men’s reason only, they will hear with patience; but when we attack the heart and its corruption, then they are uneasy.  We should rather send away a hearer smiting his breast, than please the most learned audience with a fine sermon against any vice.  We should let people feel that we are in earnest, and that we believe and are deeply affected with the great truths we recommend.  Unless they are made to feel the urgency of the message, unless they can feel us preach when they hear us, they cannot be expected to be convicted of its relevance and truth.  And really, true exposition can never be dry and cold, for the bible is a ‘warm-blooded’ book.  It conveys a message pulsating with life.

The validity of Christian experience is sometimes attacked as being nothing more than emotional experience, with no objective truth or reality.  But, whether we like it or not, there is emotion in everything that we think or say or do; emotional activity is part of our make-up.  To maintain, as some would, that our decisions in spiritual matters must be devoid of all emotional content , is to be as mistaken on the one side as are those on the other, who seek to work up excessive feeling of guilt and conviction.  It is a wrong and dangerous kind of evangelism that deliberately works up mass emotion or exercises undue influence over the free choice of an individual.  It is significant that all schools of psychology accept as one of their basic principles that intellectual understanding or acceptance of a new outlook is ineffectual unless accompanied by an emotional experience of such a change.  Even psychiatrists will bear ample testimony to this fact.

While there may be distortions of true experience, we cannot gainsay the fact that there are deep emotional accompaniments when we first acknowledge that we are guilty sinners in need of forgiveness.  When we first learn some new and searching truth about ourselves it does, of course, stir our emotions.  We may become very angry the first time we are told that in God’s sight we are all sinners and have fallen short.  We may go on to feel deep contrition as we recognise that it was our sin which sent Jesus to Calvary.  We should not be surprised to find ourselves deeply moved as we realise that as we trust Him, we are forgiven for time and for eternity.  To maintain that such great truths about ourselves and the Creator of the universe should not stir us, suggests that we have a very meagre understanding of ourselves.  Those very same people who would want to empty religious experience of its emotional content, would be the very first to label as absurd any similar attempt to empty of all emotion their relationship with their loved ones!

 

  1.  THE WILL

This is the ultimate aim of every true message.  It fails to reach its purpose unless it inspires the Will to action, unless it leads the soul to ACT.  It is not enough to bring a soul to SEE spiritual truths, wonderful or terrible, and to FEEL heavenly ecstasies or agonising sorrow.  The THRILL of the Mind, and the THROB of the heart must result in the THRUST of the will to a definite Choice.

There is something wrong with a sermon that sends the listener home satisfied with himself.  The wrong kind of preaching may interest but it does not constrain or convict; it may tickle the mental palates of the listeners, but is does not make them feel the bitterness of sin; it may offer entertainment but it does not amaze with the overwhelming glory of God.

Our message, if it is to follow the pattern of the day of Pentecost , should arouse the cry either in the heart or on the lips – ‘ What shall we DO?’ (Acts 2:37, 16:30).  Peter’s sermon was sandwiched between two questions, ‘What meaneth this?’ (2:12) and ‘What shall we do?’ (2:37).  His sermon was, in essence, a reply to the first question and resulted in the second question.  It was an expression and exposition of Pentecost and so led to a conviction of sin and need in the hearers.  In the same way, when our message is born of a Pentecostal experience in our own hearts, and explains such an experience as it relates to the Cross and the Throne (‘you have crucified…. God hath raised up’) it should not merely arouse interest and sorrow in your hearers, but inspire them to Action – ‘What shall we DO?’.

To refer again to the prodigal (Luke 15), he not only recognised his sin (‘I have sinned’) and regretted it (‘I am not worthy’) but he renounced it (‘ I will arise and go to my father’). He ACTED.  And so the Recognition and Regret led to Resolve which, born in Repentance led to Faith that his father would Receive him.  We know what a reception he had – not as a servant, but as a son, once lost but now found; once dead but now alive again!  Such exhortation for souls to ACT should always be the climax of our message.  They must DO something about it – resolve to renounce their sin or sinful way of life, and arise and go their Father, who will receive them freely.  They must first Go before they can LAY HOLD of salvation and eternal life.

 

The following verses will fittingly sum up the threefold aim of your message.  Note the figure of the LAMP (to enlighten the Mind); the PITCHER (to arouse the Feelings); the TRUMPET (to inspire the Will to action) and let us not forget the main truth, that as we preach, WE MUST BE HIDDEN AWAY OUT OF SIGHT! LET CHRIST ALONE BE MAGNIFIED!

 

 

He held the Lamp of truth that day

So low that none could miss their way,

And yet so high, to bring in sight

The picture fair – the World’s great Light,

That, gazing up – the Lamp between-

THE HANDS THAT HELD IT SCARCE WERE SEEN.

 

He held the Pitcher, stooping low,

To lips of little ones below,

Then raised it to the weary saint,

And bade him drink when sick and faint.

They drank – the Pitcher there between-

THE HAND THAT HELD IT SCARCE WAS SEEN.

 

He blew the Trumpet soft and clear,

That trembling sinners need not fear,

And then, with louder note and bold,

To raze the walls of Satan’s hold.

The Trumpet coming thus between-

THE HAND THAT HELD IT SCARCE WAS SEEN.

 

But when the Captain says ‘Well done!’

Thou good and faithful servant, Come!

Lay down the Pitcher and the Lamp,

Lay down the Trumpet, leave the Camp!

The weary hand will then be seen

CLASPED IN THOSE PIERCED HANDS – NAUGHT BETWEEN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions:

 

  1.  When you first thought you would like to preach, what were your motives?
  2. If preaching is such an honourable calling, why should it bring reproach and even persecution?
  3. Why should your motive be to get souls to BELIEVE?
  4. Does an educated or clever man need to be enlightened?
  5. If you found a man weeping as a result of a sermon, how could you be sure that he was really repentant?
  6. Read Romans 1:1-16, and then write down some of Paul’s motives for preaching the gospel.
  7. Preaching brings persecution.  Give instances of this in the case of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts.
  8. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) what do you think would a) enlighten the minds  (b) arouse the feelings  (c) inspire the wills –  of the hearers?
  9. Write a message on Romans 5:8, not forgetting your Introduction, Headings and Sections and Appeal.
  10. Write a message on 2 Cor 5:20 – not forgetting your climax in an appeal to ACT!