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Power in the Pulpit

We have the great responsibility to be different from the world.

Power in the Pulpit

Spending nine years on the preaching team of All Souls, Langham Place was a rare privilege. A nerve-wracking one, too. Especially when Uncle John (Stott) was in the congregation! But as I've reflected on my preaching over the last twenty-five years or so, I've sensed that very different things affect my nerves these days.

The All Souls pulpit was donated in the 1970s by John Stott's friends and admirers when he stepped back from the overall leadership of the church. In common with many others, it has a little inscription that always caught my eye as I climbed its three steps: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." They're great words—important words. Every preacher would do well to honor them.

But given today's cultural climate, the ability of people to "see" Jesus in our preaching has a new barrier. It all comes down to the problem with power. Specifically, many of our contemporaries harbor deep suspicions of anyone in authority, perhaps especially when ...

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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Mark Meynell

January 11, 2016  10:19am

(pt3) Finally, there is a whole load more on this in my A WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS and so can only point you towards that. Also Andy Crouch's book PLAYING GOD is excellent for these questions. Thanks again for your comments!

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Mark Meynell

January 11, 2016  10:18am

(Pt2) Furthermore, he would be unflinching about the command to repent (eg Acts 17) because that is what God has said. It's not up for debate, dialogue or negotiation. There IS something declarative about that. Of course, he would still debate, dialogue and perhaps negotiate, for days on end if needed. But the gospel charge was unalterable. Does that mean local church ministry must resemble a Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones or Edwards etc...? Of course not. God raises up the right people for times and places. I certainly prefer plural leadership, for many of the reasons in the article. My concern here is not simply that we have to have a rigid polity or leadership structure - only that we take care to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of our particular model from the basis of how it helps or hinders Christlike power-use. We can't naively abandon authority or power. It is a neutral thing. We must avoid abusing it, but make the most of it for others' flourishing. Like Jesus, like Paul.

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Mark Meynell

January 11, 2016  10:06am

Hi Tim Thanks for your comments. I do get where you're coming from and am all too aware of the inevitably contextual nature of all ministry - we must all face the legacy and culture of our own church inheritance, and measure them against the benchmark of God's word. So what we call 'pulpit ministry' is quite possibly unrecognisable to the first Christians. Having said that, the picture is more complex. And even if it is missing (in my view only if narrowly defined), that doesn't get us far. But there's more - isn't the Sermon on the Mount, for one, the bullet point notes of what seems to be a monologue? When he taught, he taught as 'one with authority, not like the scribes' simply because he never leant on previous interpreters... hence 'BUT I SAY..." - Paul himself would lecture, AND debate/dialogue with people - he had the flexibility to use all kinds of communication styles... communicating the gospel was the end, with its inherent authority, regardless of the means...

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Frank Lattimore

January 07, 2016  3:18pm

Great article. Preaching goes back to the OT, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc. Taking the Word and explaining it. And I do believe that Paul did receive offerings as he said "do not muzzle the ox while it is treading" and similar phrases. I think some are jealous of others who have long stays in pulpits or large congregations that appear each week to listen. A good article that reminded me to pray the prayer of CHS "God be merciful to me a sinner" as I stand to preach. Let us be loving servants to call the people listening with the help of the Holy Spirit to change and be like Jesus.

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