Thursday, July 13, 2006

Expository Preaching Workshop and Delighting in God's Word

Prior to 2006, Project Timothy would run the Evangelical Ministers' Conference in conjunction with the Project Timothy Bible Conference in July of each year. This year, however, they ran an Expository Preaching Workshop instead (no reason was given). I was strongly urged to attend and dutifully arrived at Bethesda Church Bukit Arang in great trepidation, wondering what fate would befall me (ever mindful of the horror stories from the preaching workshops at the Cornhill Training Course and being fully aware that Christopher Ash was a Cornhill man).

I needn't have feared; EPW was fantastic stuff. The only downer was having to pry away from the little groups talking enthusiastically about God's work in the world and reluctantly mosey back to work after lunch, still digesting the morning's lessons.
Golden Shoe Carpark Lift Lobby
Chris Ash's project for the past year has been Psalm 119. He translated it from the Hebrew, a verse or so a day, gradually working through it and giving talks on it. Christ Church Central in Sheffield were the guinea pigs and the chappies at Proclamation Trust's Evangelical Ministry Assembly came next, to the benefit of the people at EPW and more so at PTBC (I'm greatly look forward to that because EPW was far too short!).

Without pre-empting, hopefully, what Chris will cover at PTBC, a great challenge from EPW was to preach and teach God's word as it is written. Of course we know that we ought not teach the Bible out of context or pick and choose to acknowledge only the bits of the Bible that appeal to us while ignoring the unplatable stuff or read it anthropocentrically.

But more than that, we must teach and model a right response to a correct reading of God's word. This doesn't mean that we need to beef up our application (being the last section of the comprehend-understand-findthemainpoint-apply way of bible reading) to make it more relevant for our congregation or group members. Psalm 119, which gives us the authorised response to God's word (because we have been so invaded by sin that we do not even know the appropriate response), tells us that the word of the LORD is to be so sweet to our ears that we delight in it. The word of God is not merely a word of revelation that speaks to our minds but also a word of affection that speaks to our hearts. We are to be emotional about it. Perhaps we evangelicals, in dealing with the fetid emotionalism of the Charismatic movement mired in vile error, have swung to the opposite mistake of being dry and dusty; fearful of emotion.

David Jackman when he was here for Ministry Matters earlier this year quoted John Piper quoting Cotton Mather: "The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher is to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men"; the purpose of preaching and teaching the Bible is to enthrone God in the hearts of his people.

This means that in the pulpit and in our DGs and other Bible study groups, God and his works must not be coolly and disengagedly observed, explained and understood ("Mmmm, yes, good. That's the main point. Now how would you apply that in your lives?"). Rather, the wonderful perfections, offices and grace of the Son of God must be passionately exhorted in the most lively colours, and proclaimed in the clearest language, so as to attract the souls of men into a state of everlasting friendship with him (Cotton Mather again). We must fervently plead or encourage as the word of God directs us, not by emotional blackmail, but by faithfully proclaiming the Bible. And faithful proclamation of Scripture necessarily seeks a response from our entire being, including our emotions.

We should preach and teach God's word as it is written, not shying away from the natural and right effect that it has on our sensibilities.

But more on this after PTBC.



At July 15, 2006 8:38 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't make it for PTBC. Will you be able to post your notes here?

At July 17, 2006 3:56 pm , Blogger shadow said...

Yes of course, but Chris Ash did say that he'd like to have a look at them first.

And seeing that he's now in Bintan and will be speaking at a summer camp as soon as he gets back to England and that his son'll be getting married thereafter, it'll probably be some time before he can get round to reading the notes.

If you can't wait, the mp3s can be ordered online here at the Project Timothy website. :-)


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