The Task of the Preacher

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John Currie, Lecturer in Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, discusses the challenges involved and the task of preaching.  Rev. Currie is also Director of Alumni Relations and Educational Advancement at Westminster and formerly pastored Cornerstone Orthodox Presbtyerian Church in Ambler, PA. This episode retains much value for the listeners of sermons as well. The task of the preacher and the characteristics of a faithful sermon are things every believer ought to be familiar with.

episode photo provided by itspaulkelly

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5 Responses to “The Task of the Preacher”

  1. Camden Bucey says:

    I’m curious if anyone has a reaction to our discussion on imperative and/or exemplary vs. redemptive-historical preaching. Do you think there is a redemptive-historical hermeneutic, not an RH homiletic?

  2. Matthew Holst says:

    Camden

    Thanks for the show. In response to the your questions regarding methods of preaching, I have the following thoughts (for what they are worth!):

    First, the indicative / imperative pattern of revelation or preaching is clearly seen throughout Scripture. When God speaks to Joshua prior to the entry to the promised land, Yahweh lists the triumphs that Israel will have in their conquest “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you…” (Josh 1:3ff). Now based upon the assurance of Divine activity in the taking of the land, Yahweh then commands Joshua “be strong and courageous”. He doesn’t just command this once, note, but three times. The foundation of Joshua’s strength and courage is that Yahweh is on his side – “the Lord your God is with you wherever you shall go” (1:9). Indicative and imperative clearly interacting in God’s revelation to man – which for me has interesting application for our preaching. If preaching is the declaration and explanation of God’s Word, then we have good grounds for following the pattern in which God delivers His revelation. The examples of the indicative / imperative pattern are too numerous to list, but one from our Lord’s ministry should suffice to make the point. “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14) – the Indicative closely followed by the Imperative “let your light shine before others that they may see your good works” (5:16). Just a cursory glance at Paul’s epistles allows us to see that he labors to set out doctrine and then seeks to apply it. It seems to me the indicative/imperative approach of Scripture is inescapable.

    So too, however, is the Redemptive Historical approach abundantly clear. How else do we understand the writer to the Hebrews use of the old testament in Hebrews 3 and 4. Based on the unbelief of Israel of old the writer exhorts the Hebrews to take heed to themselves lest they fall away from the living God (indicative / imperative also!!). He continues to explain that “a rest” remains for the people of God, a rest which Joshua could not give. The writer, guided by the Spirit explains the concept of “rest” by reference to Joshua, the land, those who did not enter because of unbelief, and also the eternal rest of the saints. Now how’s that for redemptive history! Another example – how can one understand the Johannine concept of fulness (Jn 1:14, 16) without a redemptive historical lens. Fulness is a word of comparison – either from empty to full (not the right understanding of John’s “fulness”) or from partial to full (the correct understanding). Whatever view you take of fulness (empty or partial to full) you are by definition entering into an RH discussion. The “fulness” we see then, throughout John’s gospel is the completion or fulfillment of the grace of the old covenant, now made manifest in Christ.

    So the RH element is there too and so to is the Indicative / Imperative. What grieves me the most in this whole discsussion is that two (or more) distinct groups have developed in the reformed world, and “never the twain shall meet”. How wrong-headed is that? It’s a simple issue really. Broadly speaking (and I mean that rigidly, I’m not being absolute here) the the indicative / imperative is micro-focal in that it dervies a sense from a local context – usually the text before us. The RH approach is macro-focal – analyzing the BT of certain concepts or events in its broader context. The tragedy is that some preachers exclusively employ one method and others the other, and frankly their preaching is impoverished as a result.

    How, for example can one preach Luke 4:16-30 (Christ preaching at Nazareth “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim good news to the poor” – he is then rejected by the people who seek to cast him off a cliff) without a) reference BACK to the original prophecy (Is 61) b) reference to the immediate fulfillment / context of the Jews listening and rejecting Christ and c) the covenant context today, where some reject and others receive (I return to Hebrews 4:12 for warrant for point ‘c’). Everytime one preaches on prophecy, by definition, one engages in a redemptive historical hermeneutic, whether one realizes it or not. Thus there is clearly an RH hermeneutic and an RH homiletic, in response to your question.

    Good preachig, at least preaching that addresses me, is preaching which does all of the above. Context (local) has been pit against context (broad) – a house divided. Others some simply ignore the pattern of God’s revelation to us. The extremes of both sides detract from the glory of God’s Word, and dare I say, from the efficacy of the preached Word?

    I’m not pretending this is the first and last word on the matter, and I’ve not yet listened to most of the recording (I will though) but these were my initial thoughts on the matter.

    Blessings

    Matt

  3. Bob says:

    Has anyone read Andy Stanley’s book, “Communicating for a Change”? I would be interested in discussing this book with someone who shares the convictions expressed in this interview.

  4. Camden Bucey says:

    Bob, I haven’t seen it yet. What is Stanley’s background?

    • Bob says:

      He is Charles Stanley’s son. He pastors a huge church in Atlanta called North Point Community Church (www.northpoint.org). Not sure what denomination the church is affiliated with. His book is filled with very practical and helpful suggestions about how to preach in a memorable and effective way. He has a beef with content-heavy sermons that send people away unsure of what the sermon was about. He wants people to actually remember what the preacher says. So, his main argument is that sermons should have just one clear point (rather than three or four). As a preacher myself, I found it a very helpful and challenging book, but there are a number of things that I have questions about, hence my inquiry….

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I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. (Romans 16:17-18)

 
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