Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sparks capable of igniting a preacher

One reviewer has written:
"The Art Of Prophesying carries sparks capable of igniting a preacher. It should be beside every minister's desk as a book to turn to again and again."

The Art of Prophesying by William Perkins is one of the books I picked up at the EMA bookstall last week. Its a short book by the puritan Vicar of St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge. Its title would attract many people, however it is not the gift of prophecy that concerns Perkins. His concern is the ministry of prayer and preaching, a ministry he derives from observing the ministry of the Bible's prophets.

As he writes:

"Every prophet's task is to speak partly as the voice of God (in preaching), and partly as the voice of the people (in praying)."

He summarises that preaching involves:
1) Rereading the text clearly from the canonical Scriptures.
2) Explaining the meaning of it, once it has been read, in light of the Scriptures themselves.
3) Gathering a few profitable points of doctrine from the natural sense of the passage.
4) If the preacher is suitably gifted, applying the doctrines thus explained to the life and practice of the congregation in straightforward, plain speech.

The heart of the matter is this:
Preach one Christ,
by Christ, to the praise of Christ.
This is an examining book - testing my handling of the text and its application to God's people. Much like David Jackman's comments in his EMA address, Perkins will not permit preaching to be reduced to cool observation. Perkins would have the preacher excercise a higher and divine calling... the noble task of bringing God's word to the church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. - Article 19, Church of England

One last word to keep the preacher from getting above himself, from Josh Moody in his new IVP book The God-Centred Life:
"Given that Balaam's donkey was used to convey God's message, we might go so far as to say that, biblically speaking, it is quite clear that intelligence is not necessary for usefulness in the Lord's service." (p. 113)
The task is great, the preacher could be anyone God gifts and equips to serve. (HT: Towner)

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