Week 1 of the Vertical Church Tour has been overwhelming, in the best sense. The presence of God moving through churches and conference rooms filled with worshipers as His Son is lifted high and His Word is proclaimed, is so powerful and profound it is difficult to describe. Much thanks to all who are upholding us in prayer. Keep praying—today we’re in Oklahoma City, can’t wait for tonight!
Looking back, we can see that much of what went wrong with preaching at the end of the last century flowed from men determined to connect with their listeners. At the time, many preachers were understandably fed up with profitless Bible babbling that inflicts boredom on the hearers, doing great detriment to their souls. In college, a veteran preacher named Trevor Baird taught me that “the greatest sin in the ministry is to bore people with the Bible,” and I have gladly exhausted myself attempting never to do so. At times I’ve failed in this, but I have never done so with resignation or rationalization that the problem is the hearers.
A herald comes directly from the king and brings a message of urgency to bear upon those who need to hear it. The message we have from our King is called the Bible. The promises our King has made about preaching extend to preaching the Bible and nothing else. If Paul had not been so clear, we might cast about to other sources for subject matter to preach on, but we are restricted to just to the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16) and the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2). God has not promised to work through your insights about marital communication, no matter how accurate. God gives no assurances to bless my gleanings from psychology or philosophy or sociology. Now if you want to jump in here and remind me that all truth is God’s truth, I have no problem with that statement and agree that it is so. The geographical truths confirmed by Columbus and Magellan, the scientific truths discovered by Galileo and Copernicus, and Einstein’s and Hawking’s insights into space and time relativity are all God’s truth discovered. Yes, all truth is God’s truth, but hear this: all truth is not God’s Word. While it is true that 2+2 = 4 and E=MC2, neither of those equations alter your life or your eternity. None of the promises God has given in Scripture about His Word extend to the things human beings have discovered about His created order. When God says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8), which category do you think the supposed insights of Freud fall into? Are they grass that withers, or are they Word of God that stands forever?
Your conviction on this has massive implications for whether glory comes down when you preach. When God says, “My word…shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11), do you suppose the Lord is promising an unstoppable sovereign purpose to any factual insight a preacher might share from, say the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis inventory or from the Dr. Phil show on relational harmony? I hope your answer to this is decidedly no, and if it is no, then we must hold fast the conviction that God’s voice will not be heard in our churches unless we are preaching the Bible. Not preaching about the Bible, where biblical themes flow randomly out of the preacher’s own imagination. Not preaching from the Bible where a passage raises a subject but is not allowed to say anything about it because the preacher intercepts and runs to the end zone of his own thoughts on the matter. The goal is to actually preach the message of the Bible itself, where a passage is read and what is said about its subject is what the text asserts about that subject, and what is said about those assertions is what the text says about those assertions. Biblical preaching is where passages are expounded for their main points and the points the text makes about those points. In that kind of preaching, people are truly hearing what God is saying to His church by the Holy Spirit and glory comes down.
Excerpted from Vertical Church.
FG_AUTHORS: James MacDonald