Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

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The Preacher’s Work IV

Aim, shame, and tame
The gospel preacher has definite goals. He has vision. There is a difference in sight and vision, of course. Helen Keller said, The greatest tragedy in life is people who have sight but no vision.1Marcus Aurelius Antoninus said, The true worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues. Norman Vincent Peale believed, All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. William Barclay wrote, There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.

The preacher aims to accomplish something with each sermon. And he doesn’t just aim, he fires! Acting on goals is important. The Wright brothers were not the inventers of the plane. Another man had a plane ready a year before them but didn’t believe it would fly. We must take, or in some cases make, our opportunities (Joh 4:6-10; Acts 16:13, 31:33; 20:7, 18:21; 28:16, 30:31).

What are the preacher’s aims? The gospel preacher aims to speak in season and out of season (2Ti 4:2). He watches for a good opportunity to speak a good word for the Good Shepherd (Gal 6:10; Pro 12:25; John 10:11). He does not want to be too shy in speaking to others about Jesus Christ (Rom 1:16; 2Ti 1:6-7). The phrase be instant is used of persons coming upon one suddenly. It can be used of a rain shower coming up quickly, or of the advent of angels.

The gospel preacher aims to be patient (2Ti 4:2). Patience3 means endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs. It describes the spirit that never grows irritated, never despairs, and never regards any man as beyond salvation (cf. Mat 5:22). Preachers like for needed changes to be immediately made in the lives of those who hear their sermons; they are zealous to see the congregation grow in zeal and faithfulness; but at the same time, they realize that the situation likely did not develop overnight, and probably will not change overnight. Like turning a large ship around, it takes a while even to tell it is moving, and longer for the bow and the stern to switch positions; but if enough pressure is applied, it eventually happens.

The gospel preacher aims to reprove (2Ti 4:2). He must make the sinner aware of his sin. As politically incorrect as it may at first sound, at times, the gospel preacher aims to shame. Reprove carries with it a suggestion of shame of the person convicted. It means, to bring to the light, expose; find fault with, correct (Col 1:28-29; 1The 2:11-12; 5:14). At times, Paul spoke to shame others. He said candidly, Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (1Co 15:34; cf. 6:5; Heb 5:11-12). Some behaviors are shameful (1Co 14:35; Eph 5:12; Php 3:19); those who do them should be ashamed of themselves. That feeling of shame is powerfully motivational to change (Lu 16:3; Rom 6:21; 2The 3:14).

In another sense, the preacher’s work is to tame others. The word tame is found four times in Scripture. Like the possessed man in the Gadarenes, no one but Jesus can tame the rebellious spirit of sinful people (Mar 5:4). Speech patterns are especially difficult to control (Jas 3:7-8). Sermons gradually help hearers to bring their lives into complete submission to King Jesus.

Reprove4 means to convict, refute; reprehend severely; call to account, demand an explanation; chasten, to punish. This takes courage, conviction, and discipline. This does not fit the stereotypical ineffectual person who takes five sugars in his tea, always says positive things, never rocks the boat, and finds his members consulting psychics and astrologers when they are in distress. Someone observed that in modern pulpits the priest threatens to push the prophet out of his place. To be a priest requires less study and less courage since it is easier to do something for God than to be something for Him.

The gospel preacher aims to rebuke (2Ti 4:2). This word means, to raise the price of; to tax with fault, rate, chide, censure severely; to admonish or charge sharply (cf. Rev 3:19). Epictetus contrasted the false philosopher, who is out for popularity, and the real philosopher, whose aim is the good of his hearers. The false philosopher dealt in flattery; he pandered to self-esteem. The real philosopher says: Come and be told that you are in a bad way. The philosopher’s lecture, he said, is a surgery; when you go away you ought to have felt not pleasure, but pain.

Alcibiades, the brilliant but spoiled darling of Athens, is a case in point. He said to Socrates, Socrates, I hate you, because every time I meet you, you make me see what I am. The first essential to change is to bring a person to see himself as he is.

A doctor or therapist who always avoided causing pain could not treat disease and injury. Neither can a preacher. Ideally, truth is dispensed in small doses over a long period of time – like a prescription. But sometimes doctors must give a large dose immediately – like a shot. Preaching is the prescription; a rebuke is getting a spiritual shot. It is painful for a moment, but speeds the process of recovery.

John T. Lewis said: I would rather have thousands to say to me at the judgment, ‘We heard you preach and you hurt our feelings,’ than to have just one lost soul to say, ‘I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth.’9 Preachers must be both loving and plain (cf. 1Co 13:1; Jo 10:24).

In personal relationships a word of warning spoken early and often would sometimes save a brother from spiritual shipwreck (Pro 27:5). It must be spoken with a consciousness of our common guilt (cf. Gal 6:1-2). God’s Word judges us; we do not have the right to sit in judgment on another based on our preferences (John 7:1, 24).

~ Allen Webster ~

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The Preacher’s Work III

Assist and Resist
Preachers, and all Christians, should assist those in need. Paul collected money to be used to help the poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26). Stephen was among those who assisted the neglected widows (Acts 6). Pure religion keeps its eyes and heart opened to the fatherless and widows in their affliction (Jas 1:27). Preachers, and all Christians, should resist those who compromise or change God’s truth. Jude insisted that we earnestly con-tend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Ju 1:3; cf. Gal 1:6-10; Php 1:17). God’s Word has been given as a treasure to us (2Co 4:7); it must be faithfully handled and passed down to the next generation (2Tim 2:2; Rev 22:18-19).

Proclaim and Reclaim
Across the front of many communion tables are the words, This Do in Remembrance of Me. In the early days of the Restoration Movement, it was not uncommon to see inscribed across pulpits the exhortation, Preach the Word.

One definition of the New Testament word for preach is to pro-claim openly. A preacher must proclaim God’s Word, not men’s philosophies. He is the publisher; not the author. He is the sales-man; not the manufacturer. He is not at liberty to speak his own message; he must deliver the King’s message. Man was never commissioned to preach anything other than the old Jerusalem gospel (Mar 16:15; Gal 1:8-9).

More and more churches of our day are receiving less and less of the gospel with each passing year. In some places, it has become unpopular to give a thus saith the Lord. Some believe that citing the biblical reference in sermons hinders the presentation of the preacher. We wonder about a sermon that biblical references hinder!

In place of the Word in sermons, many are presenting personal interest stories, testimonials, current religious thought, jokes, and commentary on contemporary events. Franklin Camp said, Preachers of the past filled their sermons with Scripture. But one may hear sermons today with no scripture or only one passage “[A] sermon without scripture is like an empty bucket for one dying of thirst.1” Paul faced the problem at Corinth of men preaching themselves rather than the Word (cf. 1Co 2:1-5; 2Co 4:5, 18-19). Such preachers are like Elymus who tried to withhold the truth from Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:8).

Why should sermons be filled with Scripture?
First, it helps hearers learn the Bible. Each is able to search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), by following along. Abraham spoke from Paradise to say, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them (Lu 16:29). Preachers today have Moses, the prophets, Christ, and the apostles, so they should let them hear them! How can people learn the Bible if they do not hear it? (Rom 10:14).

Second, it helps avoid misapplication (2Pe 3:16). Error is often undetectable to average people when disguised in a few familiar-sounding biblical phrases severed from their original context. When honest truth-seekers are given opportunity to investigate, the truth that sets men free (Joh 8:32). Faithful preachers have nothing to hide; they desire that listeners check on them. Since each is responsible for working out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Php 2:12), preachers help by pointing others to Jesus (Joh 1:37) and His Word (Heb 4:12).

Third, it shows respect for biblical authority (Col 3:17). Hearers are reminded that the preacher is not speaking of himself (Joh 7:16; 8:28; 14:10), or asserting his own ideas (1Pe 4:11; 2Pe 1:20-21), but rather permitting God to speak for Himself (2Ti 3:16-17).

Fourth, it is following the Biblical precedent. Jesus often said, It is written (Mat 21:13; Mar 7:6; Lu 19:46; 24:46) and found the place where it was written (Lu 4:16-17) before beginning to preach. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2) had quotations from Joel 2:28-30, Psa 16:8-11; 110:1, and 2Sa 7:11-12. Because the apostles used the Scriptures, they were as invincible as an avalanche; nothing could stop them.

Fifth, it fulfills the purpose of preaching (2 Timothy 4:2). As farmers sow seeds, preachers are to sow the word (Luke 8:11; Acts 20:32). The power to save men is in the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16; 2Co 12:9; Joh 8:32; Eph 6:17). It is not in money (Acts 3:6), men (Acts 4:13), or popularity (Acts 28:20). How can men expect to save souls without the soul-saving message?

One purpose of proclaiming is reclaiming. Sheep wander away, so they must be searched out and brought back to the safety of the flock (Lu 15:1-7). Not all conversions end in baptisms. Some end in restorations. James wrote, Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (Jas 5:19-20). In some ways, the latter is more fulfilling that the former. For one reason, it is more challenging. Solomon explained, A brother of-fended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle (Pro 18:19; cf. Acts 15:39). But it can be done, and when it is, it is rewarding. Consider two patriarchal examples: Esau and Jacob (Gen 27:41; 33:4) and Joseph and his brethren (Gen 37; 45:15). In the New Testament, Simon the sorcerer fell, but requested prayer after Peter’s rebuke (Acts 8:22-24).

In many communities, there are more inactive church members than active ones. The assembly would be overflowing if every living person who had ever been on the rolls were still in the pews. Preachers know the value of these precious people and take time to influence them. They try to build rapport when they see them in town. They graciously offer their services if there is a death in the family. They take time to visit them when they are hospitalized. They make sure they have personal invitations to homecomings, meetings, and special church events.

~ Allen Webster ~

End notes:
1.  Church bulletin article, East Gadsden church of Christ. Author’s files. 

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The Preacher’s Work II

The purpose of learning is to turn the hearts of the people toward God. Preaching is to bring about repentance (Matthew 3:1-2; Acts 2:38; Acts 11:18; Acts 17:30; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:20), which is turning from sin to the Savior (Acts 3:19; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10). The last verse of the Old Testament described the purpose of John’s preaching: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4:5-6; cf. Luke 1:17). Paul described his successful evangelistic effort among the Macedonians: For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Preach and Reach
Preach means to proclaim after the manner of a herald; to publish. It always carries the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed (cf. Jonah 3:2). The gospel message is urgent (be instant, 2 Timothy 4:2; cf. Luke 7:4; Romans 12:12). Accepting the message is literally a matter of life and death (Ezekiel 33:11). That is why we often hear earnestness in the preacher’s voice and occasionally see a tear in his eye (Psalm 119:136; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 13:17; Luke 19:41; Acts 20:19, Acts 30:31; Romans 9:2; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 11:29; Philippians 1:4; Philippians 3:18).

The purpose of preaching is to reach the lost. God’s man is not up there to look good, to impress, to gain influence, to earn a paycheck, to advance a political view, to entertain. He preaches to save souls (Matthew 16:26; Luke 19:10). E. Stanley Jones tells of a missionary lost in the jungle. He finally found a small village and asked a native if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. “All right”, the missionary said, “Show me the way.” For hours, they hacked their way through dense brush in an un-marked jungle. Beginning to worry, the missionary said, “Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?” The native said, “In this place there is no path. I am the path.”

Preachers are the path to salvation because they show the way to the only One who can save, Jesus (John 14:6). One man asked a humble gentleman outside a hotel in a small town, Is this the best hotel in town? His answer was to the point. He said, It is the only one. Every servant can say to himself as he prepares his sermon, and again as he mounts the pulpit on Sunday, The one chance these people have of hearing the soul-saving gospel today is through me. For someone, it may be the first time; for another, it may be the last time. Do your best job.

Fire and Inspire
We joke about sleeping during preaching. One lady named Gladys visited church one Sunday. The sermon seemed to go on forever, and some fell asleep. After the service, she walked up to a sleepy looking gentleman, extended her hand, and said, “Hello, I’m Gladys Dunn.” He replied, “You’re not the only one, ma’am. I’m glad it’s done too!” A Sunday school teacher asked her children why was it necessary to be quiet in church. One bright little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping in there?” A short poem reads: “I never see my preacher’s eyes; Tho’ they with light may shine – For when he prays he closes his, And when he preaches, I close mine!” (cf. Acts 20:9).

Some would rather have a root canal than listen to a sermon. Boring. Long. Tedious. Dull. Unimportant. Dreary. Irrelevant. Tiresome. The truth is, though, good preaching has the opposite effect on spiritually minded people. It awakens! It inspires! It fires! It stimulates, motivates, and invigorates. It provokes unto love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). It encourages listeners to follow Christ and use their talents, opportunities, and time adding to His kingdom.

Consider the preaching recorded in the New Testament.

       •  When John preached in the Judean wilderness, multitudes were baptized 
           of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:1, Matthew 3:6).
       •  When he preached to Herod, the king did many things, and heard him 
           gladly (Mark 6:20).
       •  When Jesus preached, listeners were moved to action (Matthew 14:13; 
           Matthew 19:2; John 10:31). The woman at the well left her water pot (John
           4:28); Simon and Andrew forsook their nets and followed Him (Mark 1:17-18).
       •  When Peter and the apostles preached on Pentecost, three thousand 
           repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38-41).
       •  When Stephen preached, they reacted with violence (Acts 7).
       •  When Paul preached on Mars Hill, some mocked, some wanted to hear 
           him again later, and some clave unto him, and believed (Acts 17:32-34).
       •  When he preached to the Ephesians, many of them also which used 
           curious arts brought their books together, and burned them (Acts 19:19).
       •  When he preached to the governor, Felix trembled (Acts 24:25).
       •  John recorded Jesus’ inspiring preaching from heaven to the Laodiceans: 
           As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent 
           (Revelation 3:19).

Preaching inspires today. In many churches, there is public response for prayer or baptism every week. But responses are not limited to public confessions of faith or sin. Which of us sitting in the pews while a capable preacher delivers the message is not inspired to do better, be better, and live better? Each time we put ourselves under gospel preaching, we gain strength to help us face the tempter for another few days.

~ Allen Webster ~

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The Preacher’s Work I

The most important work that is done in any community any week is the work of the gospel preacher. And that includes New York, Hollywood, and Washington. What happens in New York affects world finances or fashion; the talent in Hollywood produces entertainment that keeps a few faces famous, a few wallets fat, and several million amused; and decisions made in Washington change the world for better or worse, but what the preacher does will matter when the world is on fire and Wall Street and Rodeo Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue are no more (2 Peter 3:10).

The world does not see it this way, of course. They hardly notice what we do, and if they do, they condemn it as intolerant, discount it as unnecessary, or ridicule it as insensible. This should not surprise anyone, for this has been the case since the church was new. Paul wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. Still, those in the know knew better: But unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21).”

The word ‘preach’ (in various forms) is found 159 times in the Bible. Consider a sampling of verses:

       •  John the Baptist came preaching (Matthew 3:1).
       •  God sent Jesus to preach (Luke 4:43).
       •  Jesus preached in synagogues, and from city to city (Matthew 4:17, 23; 9:35).
       •  Jesus’ first sermon in His home church was on the subject of preaching (Luke 4:17-19).
       •  Jesus’ last words on earth were about preaching: “Go ye into all the world, and preach
           the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).”
       •  The apostles obeyed this command, for the historian records: “And daily in the temple,
           and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42).”
       •  The church began with dynamic preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
       •  The early disciples who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching (Acts 8:4).
       •  When the Samaritans believed Philip preaching, they were baptized, both men and
           women (Acts 8:12).
       •  Paul stood ready to preach: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel
           to you that are at Rome also (Romans 1:15).”
       •  Paul considered it a privilege to preach: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all
           saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
           riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).”

What is the work of the preacher?

Many descriptions have been given to the work of preaching. Someone said that one could sum up a preacher’s relationship to the congregation with three words: hatch, match, and dispatch. That is, he was involved in member’s lives from start to finish. When children are born he is there to celebrate; when they begin the marital journey, he is there to perform the wedding; and when they graduate to the next world, he is there to deliver the funeral message. The late Wendell Winkler often said that the preacher’s work consisted of three Es: evangelize, edify, and enlist. He explained that this meant preachers are to continually emphasize teaching the lost (keeping cottage studies going one night a week), encouraging the saved (through visiting and Bible classes), and reproducing themselves by involving others in the Lord’s work (young men’s training classes, encouraging talented men to attend preacher training institutions) (2 Timothy 2:2).

Let’s look at a preacher’s work from a different perspective.

Learn and turn. The preacher is first a teacher; the instructor is first a disciple. Paul described himself: “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity (1 Timothy 2:7; cf. 2 Timothy 1:11).” Paul’s classic text on preaching includes the teaching aspect of preaching: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine1 (2 Timothy 4:2).” Paul wrote to the young preacher, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine2 (1 Timothy 4:13).” Doctrine in these passages means teaching.

To teach, one must learn. To learn, one must study. To study, one must weekly dedicate the mental energy and the clock time to deliver four carefully researched thirty- to forty-minute gospel presentations. The average sermon contains about 5,000 words. Most preachers deliver about 100 sermons a year (not to mention another 100 Bible classes). This totals 500,000 words a year. An average full-length novel contains 50,000 words, so a preacher is producing the equivalent of ten full-length novels every year. Even Louis L’Amour didn’t do that! (He tried to write five pages a day, and was considered a prolific writer). Most popular novelists turn out one, or two, novels per year. Needless to say, a few minutes on Saturday night with a sermon outline book or on SermonCentral.com is insufficient. Shallow, ill-thought-out sermons have little influence. Like a dull sword, they hardly prick the skin of the heart. Like a bland, low-calorie diet, they give little nourishment and less taste.

Teaching is an ongoing process (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 5:11-12). Hearing the truth is not a one-time vaccination against sin – it is a lifetime prescription dispensed in small doses. One preacher posted this Frederick Danker quote on the inside of his study door: “The Gospel is a fuel required constantly to produce and promote the life of the Spirit within the Christian. The fruits of the Spirit grow only where the Gospel is sown tirelessly and unremittingly.”

~ Allen Webster ~

End notes:
1.  The Greek for doctrine here is didache, but in 2 Timothy 3:16, didascalia. Didascalia is what one receives; didache is what is communicated [Tittmann] (Robertson’s Word Pictures).
2.  Didache, KJV – doctrine 29, has been taught 1; 30; the act of teaching, instruction.