Month 9:8, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:244 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 26 November 2017
Ministry of Preaching
The Calling of Evangelists & Pastors
The George Müller Memorial Sermons Part 4
Continued from Part 3
The George Müller Memorial Sermons (GMMS) are a series of sermons honouring the Prussian evangelist Georg Müller who founded orphanages by complete faith and dependency on Elohim (God). These sermons highlight the principles that George Müller so successfully and inspirationally lived by.
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah - I pray that you have had a good week and that you are eager to make this nineth month of the year count for Elohim (God) even more than the previous one. We ended last time on the thought that as far as our relationship with Messiah is concerned, we should be becoming more and more child-like, and I left you with the thought that this kind of maturation is, paradoxically, the complete reverse of maturation in those more familiar spheres of existence. Yet it is so important if we are to become effective witnesses.
Apostacy in Denmark and Sweden
Years ago - I think it must have been 1991 or thereabouts - when we were evangelising in Denmark, I once told a conference of our people that we cannot risk becoming like the traditional churches which are rapidly sliding into apostacy. You have probably heard the latest news that the Swedish Lutheran Church has made a new 'rule' - a man-made rule, that is - that Elohim (God) must now be addressed in gender-neutral terms. Words like 'He', 'Father' and 'Lord' are now forbidden. We are appalled but not at all surprised given the politicisation of the tradtional churches. Twenty-six years ago in Denmark I remember being shocked when I read in a newspaper that a female Lutheran priest considered it perfectly acceptable for her to minister to a man who was unhappy by going to bed with him to 'comfort' him. To her, that was 'love'. Shocking but again not surprising given the rampant liberalism in our world.
Much Higher Standards than the Churches Needed
Anyway, at that conference I challenged our people to think radically different. Earlier that day, or it may have been the day before, we were standing outside a small Danish Lutheran Church in Jutland and I remarked to the small group with me that the most inexperienced member must know as much of the Besorah (Gospel), and be as spiritually mature, as a typical Lutheran pastor of that church. It stunned those present but I believe it to have been a prophetic word. Our standard has got to be orders of magnitudes higher than the compromised churches of the world. Ordinary members have to be better than their priests and pastors - more moral and more Bible-based.
Becoming Better Witnesses
Yesterday I was watching some talks given by my favourite Christian scientist, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox. In a meeting in Australia he was asked how we can be better witnesses, especially if we feel we know so little or are inexperienced. His counsel is not new but needs to be repeated - just 'jump in', he said, be honest and transparent, make mistakes, and learn as you go along. In the end you'll pick it up, like any other skill. And, of course, Yahweh will be with you.
Too Few Preachers
Since I believe, like you, that every man and woman is a witness - and you may remember a couple of months ago we talked about this (see Becoming Yahweh's Witnesses) - I wanted to take this one step further because I believe some of you here in this assembly, and hopefully many reading this later, are called to be preachers - evangelists and pastors. This message is also for teachers since there is much overlap between all these callings. There is such a shortage of good ones these days that they are outnummbered many hundreds-to-one, which is a deplorable state of affairs.
Smaller Congregations Best
Messianic Evangelicals have never believed that Yahweh wants mega-sized churches where there as thousands of members, let alone 'smaller' ones with several hundred. And though it is good for large bodies of believers to assemble at festivals and on other special occasions, we also need the intimacy of smaller congregations (we believe congregations should split when they have reached the 144 level) as well as house-fellowships . We need get the ratio down to about 100:1. We will need more ministers.
What It Takes to Be a Minister
Who can preach? Anyone on whom is the anointing or unction. Obviously they need to know their Scriptures first and be men and women of prayer. So how does one start? You just do it, with practice making perfect. You start simple and you exercise emunah (faith) in Messiah. Above all, you speak what you know to be true. Being a skilled orator is not important. What counts is having Yah'shua (Jesus) in your heart.
Now I know there are a lot of phoney preachers around. Many of them are just showmen. It's an act, a performance. They titillate the mind with knowledge or stir up the emotions with extravagant talking. I knew one preacher in Oxford who had a ring-binder with prepared sermons. He just picked out what he felt might be needed on a particular day and read it out. Most of the congregation used to fall asleep when he preached for unless you were knew, it was just repeats. Another preacher I knew used no notes - he just liked yelling, assaulting the senses. He would speak louder and louder, as though mere bawling in their ears would subue the hardness of his congregation's hearts or awaken them from their sleepiness. I always left hardened and sleepy, and stopped attending when I knew he was going to occupy the pulpit! It was a shame, for he was otherwise quite gifted. He just want's trusting in Yahweh for the delivery and sought to improve on what the Ruach (Spirit) was always doing.
No Props Needed
There are no techniques in preaching - just a humble heart, a walking relationship with Yahweh, a love for people and a knowledge and conviction of the message of salvation in Scripture. No props are needed, no soothing background music like a Hollywood production manipulating the feelings.
Use Your Own Fresh Sermons
Never give someone else's sermon. It won't be you, it won't be authentic, for it's not just the content that matters. Your soul has to be in it - your simcha (joy) and ahavah (love) must radiate through it. It must be a work of personal creation led by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) working both in the preacher and in the congregation.
Learning to Be Methodical
Now I don't claim to be a very good preacher and it would be true to say that not all my sermons are even in quality. I know some can be quite dull when I unconsciously slip into my academic mode. I have my bad days. I have been to no seminary to receive formal training even if I have sought instruction from others more learned than myself throughout my life. Nevertheless training is important. And if there is one thing I like about the old Methodists is that they were methodical, from which they get their name. They were systematic and orderly.
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
I know some of you have head of the 'Wesleyan Quadrilateral' which is actually based on Anglican tradition. John Wesley believed that this illuminated the core of the Christian faith for the believer:
Dealing With Tradition
- 1. Scripture;
- 2. Reason;
- 3. Experience; and
- 4. Tradition.
Tradition can obviously be 'iffy'. Historically 'tradition' (which you will find plenty of in the old traditional Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) based on the interpretations of men and syncretism with paganism, have led churches far off the true Derech (Way), but obviously you cannot avoid tradition altogether. There is good and bad tradition even in Scripture - the bad "tradition of the elders" (Mt.15:2-6; Mk.7:3.16) and "human tradition" (Col.2:8) and then there is the good apostolic tradition (2 Thes.3:6). We learn from our mentors and peers who in turn learned from theirs.
The Necessity of Experience
The Methodists, who were an offshoot of the Church of England, retained many traditions of that body like infant baptism and antinomianism, to name but two. Nevetheless I share the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to remind you of the importance of Scripture, reason and experience at the very least - and by experience I mean both what we learn from our conversation and communion with Yahweh and with godly men and women, as well as what we learn from our mistakes. One thing is certain in all of this: it is not Yahweh's way to set up a man to preach who knows too little of the Davar Elohim (Word of God) or has not experienced enough of the life of the Ruach (Spirit) within him, for without these he will be unsuccessful in preparing his sermons. That is why cohenim (priests) in the Mosaic Priesthood were never ordained before the age of 30 because they were reackoned not to be experienced enough. This is also why we in this ministry do not ordain Elders who have not attained that age either.
Confusing an Office With Occasional Ministry
The work of the ministry is not a profession - it's not a 'job' and it most certainly should not be salaried. I have to say this often because so many come along wanting to join us hoping we will employ them. Preaching and ministering is a divine vocation which all are called to do to one degree of another. This does not obviously mean that everyone is called to the office of pastor, of course, but it does mean that all believers are offering a degree of pastoral service from time to time in ministering to others' needs. It is the same with the navi (prophet). Not everyone is called to be a navi (prophet) like Samuel, Elijah or Isaiah but every true beliver, if he has been born again or spiritually regenerated, at a minimum has the spirit of prophecy to enable him to witness:
The Spirit of Prophecy
"For the testimony of Yah'shua (Jesus) is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev.19:10, NIV).
You cannot bear witness in a way that moves other people's spirits, minds and hearts until you are empowered with the spirit of prophecy, and that comes about quite simply by surrendering your life to Yah'shua (Jesus) and being tranformed within so that you know Him personally. How can you know whether you are nor not? By witnessing and leaving that witness with the Ruach (Spirit) to continue with what has been planted.
Knowing What to Preach
A true preacher is utterly dependent on Yahweh. He will be led on what to preach. It often happens that I am led to a particular passage and thereafter the Ruach (Spirit) takes over and directs my mind and hand. That's not the only, way, of course. Sometimes he He brings to my remembrance a need that someone has and then directs me to a path of ministry viâ preaching. Thus while a topic may be generally uplifting to all in a congregation it may specifically and urgently minister to someone in difficult straits. I have experienced this so many times. 'That was just for me, brother!' is a remark I have heard more than once.
The Miracle of Ruach-Filled Preaching
Whether your sermon will minister generally (corporately) or specifically (individually), Yahweh will open your mouth, He will open the Scriptures to their true meaning on whatever level He wishes you to administer, He will cause your soul to expand and you will experience shalom (peace) and power as you impart the Davar (Word). Then you will find yourself riding on a spiritual wave - Yahweh will be in control and you will find yourself being ministered to too! It's always two ways in the Ruach (Spirit)! This will result in your talking on the same level with people and not over their heads. By the by you will have their attention well enough for then many, if not all, will be in the Ruach (Spirit). It's quite an adventure and can be very exciting! If I have preached in the Ruach (Spirit) I will come away buoyant myself.
Keep It Simple So All Can Understand
Do not assume that just because you have misgivings that you are not on the correct path. Do not let the sophistication or a higher standard of education than yours possessed by those to whom you preach intimidate you. Your eyes should, in any case, be on Yah'shua (Jesus) and not people. The enticing, sophisticated words of men are useless in the arena of preaching - such only titillates their ears to distraction from matters spiritual. Such renders the power of the cross null and void. Assume your audience is illiterate and, as that great orator Winston Churchill learned, keep your sentences short and your vocabulary simple. Then both the cultivated and the uncultivated will understand it! I speak, of course, of a congregation containing a cross-section of all kinds of people. Obviously if you're talking to a particular audience then you can adapt your language accordingly. And don't suppose preaching in simplicity is easy! Martin Luther said that "to preach simply is a great art".
The Satisfaction of Preaching
The preacher who is thus inspired will find great satisfaction in what he does and in experiencing a harvest of converted unbelievers and edified believers. People will be uplifted and blessed. Many a time I have had to scrap sermons or parts of sermons because they made me feel lifeless and depressed. I have always known when I was not being authentic in the Ruach (Spirit). The job of a preacher is not, in any case, to elicit praise for himself but glory for Yahweh! Converting and edifying souls brings Him that glory. You are not supposed to be the centre of attention.
The Who, How and What of Preaching
Preparing a good sermon takes a lot of preparation! A sermon of about an hour will take at least four times as long in the preparation. Some take considerably longer. The more preparation, the better the result. Most preachers don't, like myself, prepare a written version for publication online, and in that I am responding to a divine mandate. I don't, in any case, just read these sermons out, but add and subtract material as I go along, sometimes changing a lot as the Ruach (Spirit) leads as you never know what Yahweh will want on the actual day. Most preach from rough notes on cards with key words or phrases to help keep their minds organised. Some preach totally ex tempore without any aids at all. There is no right or wrong way. And of course, many record their sermons on video and occasdionally some dedicated member will transcribe it. It is the same for a teacher. A lot of work and prayer goes into preparation. Often I find my direction being changed during preparation - I want to go one way but Yahweh wants me to go another. We have to be responsive to such leading.
The Humble Witness
The same principles hold true whether you are preaching as a pastor or witnessing as a layman - the only difference is one of cale. As a witness people will ask you questions you can't always answer. By being honest and transparent, saying 'I don't know, I need to look into that - maybe we could meet up again and talk about it?' you can win a friend. Then you will have time to do your research and return prepared.
Continuous Character Reformation
The acquisition of such answers may require more than mere study, though. Character reformation is part of the lifelong, on-going preparation for effective witnessing. By carefully and prayerfully watching ourselves, we may be delivered from all vanity and self-complacency. Our greatest witness is always our behaviour and the spirit we radiate, which are far more likely to convert someone, or persuade them to look into the claims of Yah'shua (Jesus), than just presenting information.
Rounded Discipleship and Spiritual Life
Our chief aim should always be rounded discipleship - to be more and more humble, faithful and quiet. Loving Yah'shua (Jesus) is the most important thing of all and then living out the Torah lifestyle as He would want, without hypocrisy, so that it may attract rightly and be safely imitated. Christianity, in any case, consists not in empty words but in power, and for that to become real in witnessing, there must be His chayim (life) in us - real, spiritual chayim (life) and not the psychic counterfeit which masks the Ruach (Spirit) and leads only to cheap entertainment and self-delusion.
It is this chayim (life) that touches and draws people to Messiah and in turn fills them. Our purpose is to point people to that Source. More than that is but vain religion.
"And this is the testimony: Elohim (God) has given us eternal chayim (life), and this chayim (life) is in his Son. He who has the Son has chayim (life); he who does not have the Son of Elohim (God) does not have chayim (life)" (1 John 5:11-12, NIV).
Continued in Part 5
 See On House Fellowships and Houses and Cells