Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why preaching more than once a week must be a conviction

2 Timothy 1:5-7 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

This particular text has been on my heart for more than a few weeks and I have been desiring to write on this subject of the urgency of preaching.  Today's post is written as much to congregations as it is to fellow preachers of the Word. As a pastor of a wonderful, active church in the 21st century, I find it interesting how many churches and pastors are scaling back on the frequency of preaching throughout a given week. I understand that for some, the frequency of preaching may very well be considered a preference. Others may say that for the sake of increasing interest in church or for more effective outreach, perhaps preaching should be lessened to allow other programs to take its place.  

There may very well be rare occasions where such sentiments are valid.  However when I reflect on Paul's instructions to his young protégé Timothy, the urgency of the hour requires not less, but more emphasis on preaching of the Word. For me this text spells out why preaching more than once a week is not a preference, but a conviction. Please note the following thoughts:

1. Preachers who remain on fire must preach frequently. 2 Timothy 1:4-6
Whether the pastor is preaching more than once a week in their church, or whether the pastor has opportunity to preach in places such as nursing homes, hospitals or street corners - his preaching will only grow when it is done more frequently. Notice 2 Timothy 1:6 "For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." That underlined phrase "kindle afresh" comes from a verbal form and root that speaks of a repeated stirring of glowing embers in a fire.

Preaching entails waging war against lack of faith, stirring saints to greater faith and sustaining interest in Christ, the author of faith. John Wesley often urged his preachers to "build a fire in the pulpit".  A true preacher will say with Jeremiah 20:9 "But if I say, 'I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,' Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it."

2. Preaching that builds courageous listeners must be frequent. 2 Timothy 1:7-8

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7-8 "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God." We are living in a fearful age where out of timidity many churches and pulpits are backpedaling on the truth. As one preacher stated years ago about modern day pulpits: "Preaching now-a-days is a mild mannered man, speaking to a mild-mannered people a mild-mannered message about how to be more mild-mannered."

In a 21st century world where changes in laws on marriage, on- demand abortion and terrorism are realities, God's churches need to hear not less of God's Word, but more. Courageous churches are needed to minister to a wayward culture in both truth and love. Worry, doubt and fear crowd the hearts of so many people and what is needed is a Word from God.  Paul's exhortation to young Timothy to not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord was urgent, being that this young pastor was going to need to exhort His people weekly to face a paganized culture with the truth that Jesus reigns, Jesus saves and that without Him there is no hope in this world nor in the next. The church that is going to advance in the 21st century needs a courageous pulpit as its rudder to navigate the turbulent waters of this world. We need to be told repeatedly the words God told Joshua in Joshua 1:9 that in effect says be strong and very courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

3. Preaching the centers people on the cross must be frequent. 2 Timothy 1:9-12
If our churches are ever to remain strong and effective, they must be all about the cross in both its saving and sanctifying work. Paul speaks of the Sovereign foundations of the cross in 1:9, the saving power of the cross in 1:10, and the sound assurance of salvation the cross brings in 1:11-12. Unless the cross is both the center and circumference of everything we do or think, then our message will drift and our places of worship will become nothing more than monuments of a bygone era. As a preacher, I need to preach the Gospel to myself everyday, for I find if I don't, I rely more on my righteousness than Christ's and more on my power than the Spirit's power. If such a reality is true for the preacher, what about those who are in the pew?

4. Preaching frequently equips churches to be effective in love and holiness. 2 Timothy 1:13-14
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:13-14 "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." Notice the three words or phrases underlined in the text. First "retain". The word translated "retain" is from a verbal form and root that speaks of continuing to have or keeping hold of those things originally received.  To retain God's words is no doubt rooted in faith and the second underlined word, "love". How is it that preaching can ever affect God's people to retain love for God's word, one another and people around them?

Jesus told His disciples originally that the world will know they are his disciples by their love for one another. (John 13:35). Then notice the final underlined phrase in addition to "retain" and "love", namely "The Holy Spirit". Why is He called the "Holy Spirit"? Because His task is to make God's people holy. Jesus Himself has ordained that through the washing of the water of the Word that He presents to Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle. (Ephesians 5:26-27) The Holy Spirit Who was sent by the Father in His name is preparing the church to meet her Lord by means of God-called preachers and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11-12). In a world that is unloving and unholy, the need of the hour is for preachers and a church that is loving and holy. If we are going to point the way to God - Jesus Christ, we must do it God's way. God would have it to be that in His church and among His preachers that they preach frequently, prayerfully, courageously and lovingly.

Today I have shared my heart as to why preaching more than once a week is a conviction for me and why it must be a conviction for both preachers and churches. We noted four reasons from 2 Timothy 1:4-14 as to why this must be the case. Preaching that is done frequently will yield:
1. Preachers who are on fire 1:4-6
2. Courageous churches    1:7-8
3. Cross-centered churches 1:9-12
4. Loving and Holy churches 1:13-14