Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Famine of Preaching?

The prophet Amos prophesied of a day when God would “send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. God said at that time, “People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it. 13 "In that day the beautiful virgins And the young men will faint from thirst.” (Amos 8:11-13).

Martin Luther referenced this passage when he said, “There is no crueler blow of the wrath of God than when he sends a famine of hearing his words (Amos 8:11). Likewise, there is no greater favor from him than the sending forth of his Word, as it is said, ‘He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction’ (Ps. 107:20)” (Martin Luther in His Own Words, Kilcrease and Lutzer, p. 17).

It strikes me that perhaps some, maybe even much, of modern evangelical preaching is not the blessing of God but the judgment of God. I fear that for many preaching of the Word has been turned into a self-help session, a coping mechanism with no underlying foundation of a biblical worldview, no coherent explanation of God and his character and work in the world, no explanation of the brokenness sin has brought, no explanation of what it means to repent. It is therapy rather than formation. It is self-help rather than self-denial.

Michael Lawrence asks and answers it this way: “Do non-Christians want a purpose-filled life? Of course they do. The problem is that, as idolaters, they want that purpose to center on themselves. And they’ll be happy to even employ God and Jesus for filling that self-centered purpose.”[1]

There are many good preaching pastors who open the Word weekly and preach it as the voice of God that satisfies a deep spiritual hunger with spiritual food. Let us be one of those. Let us be those who listen to those. Let us refuse to be satisfied with less.

Just because people don't like it is no reason to abandon it. At the end, preachers will be held to a higher standard than "How many showed up?" or "How quickly did your church grow?" Preachers will be judged by these verses:

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

[1] Lawrence, Michael. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print. 9Marks.

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