Sunday, 26 April 2009

Preaching in Church

A friend of mine at College did some serious thinking about the place of virtual church - 'attending' church on-line. It seemed a somewhat ethereal issue at the time, but not any more. Churches have sprung up in Second Life, and the increase in podcasts of sermons is unending (one wonders if this is the new measure of success as a preaching - not church size, but number of downloads).

Obviously Lloyd-Jones didn't stream his sermons, and in Preaching and Preachers he doesn't comment on the pros and cons of multi-campus, live-streamed video links. But he does deal with the 1970s equivalent under the objection to preaching that people would be better to stay at home, read journals and published sermons, or listen to preachers on the radio. Listen to Lloyd-Jones' answer:

Another thing, which I find very difficult to put into words, but which to me is most important is that the man himself [who listens to a sermon on the radio or reads printed sermons] is too much in control. What I mean is that if you do not agree with the book you can put it down, if you do not like what you are hearing on the television you can switch it off. You are an isolated individual and you are in control of the situation. Or, to put it more positively, that whole approach lacks the vital element of Church. Now the Church is a missionary body, and we must recapture this notion that the whole Church is a part of this witness to the Gospel and its truth and message. It is therefore most important that people should come together and listen in companies in the realm of the Church. That has an impact in and of itself. [...] The preacher after all is not speaking for himself, he is speaking for the Church, he is explaining what the Church is and what these people are, and why they are what they are.
Preaching and Preachers, p.42

His point is that the church itself is part of the preaching event. They are the people of God formed by, constituted by, the Word of God. They are under His authority. And by their very existence they testify to the veracity of this word. This word is truth - here, look around, see this truth in action, in reconciled relationships, in forgiveness, in love, in Jew and Gentile sharing a meal.

To hear a sermon is not only an intellectual exercise. It it to submit to God's authority revealed in the Scriptures, mediated by the Spirit, in and by the company of God's people.


mark said...

Hey Dave,

Hope you're well mate!

Thanks for the post - nice and timely. I've also heard that Lloyd Jones didn't like people taking notes during his sermons - he wanted them to simply be sitting under the word at each given point of time during the sermon, and really had a view of changing hearts on the spot with his preaching. I'm not really anti-noting-taking, but I reckon this emphasis could be a helpful little corrective too!

Cheers brother,

Roger Gallagher said...

One of your sermons is up on the Sydney Anglicans website. In light of your comments, should I ask them to take it off?

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