Recently, I listened to Steven Lawson’s presentation from the 2017 Ligonier Conference. Lawson was given the topic of the recovery of preaching in the reformation. How did the preaching of the word impact the recovery of biblical Christianity in the lives of men like Luther and Calvin.
Lawson showed from history how Luther and Calvin gave themselves to preaching the word of God day after day after day. These men preached thousands of sermons, walking their congregations through verse after verse, chapter after chapter. They preached multiple times on Sundays. They preached during the week.
This presentation has gotten me thinking about this question: What do we have to offer? I serve a small church. There are not hundreds or even thousands of us. We do not have a building of our own. We do not have massive programs or tons of financial resources. We do not have the capacity to entertain the culture around us in any form that would match what the world offers. Besides, we live in Las Vegas, where the entertainment focus is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before.
What then can we do that is our own? What do we have to offer the world that they cannot get somewhere else? There are charities around us giving food and help to many. There is no lack of high-quality music all over the city. There are social clubs galore. There are programs for kids and for adults. What do we have to offer?
2 Timothy 3:16-4:4 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
What do we have? We have the word of God. We have the infallible, inerrant, living and active Scriptures. We have the ability to preach the word. That is what we have that others lack.
What then must be at the center of the life of our church? It must be the word of God. Our church must be given to the preaching of the word. We must love the Lord by loving his word and obeying it. We must love one another by living as family and by helping each other to be accountable to the word of God.
In so many ways, this is better than the average church in America. So many churches are focusing their lives and ministries on trying to match the offerings of the world. Some try to match the world’s music. Some try to match the world’s entertainment options with social opportunities and kids’ programs. Some try to be the best charity in their community. But, so many of those same churches actually take the one thing they have to offer that is different from the world and they shunt it aside.
What would it look like for a church to set the word aside? Sermons would get shorter, as the focus of the services would be the entertainment value of music, drama, and other such things. The time that used to be given to the instruction of people in the word would fade as churches simply stop doing extra teaching. Evening Bible studies and classes of depth would simply go away. And, when teaching is done, it will be messages that are primarily illustration, story-telling and supposed application, and the simple exposition of Scripture will be hard to spot.
What challenges me is the call to preach the word in and out of season. In many places, it is out of season for the regular, repeated, intense preaching of the word. So many Christians have their time taken up with so many other things that they are barely bumped by the word of God for half an hour per week. May this not be so in our lives. May we find ways to continually open the word together for the sake of the honor of the Lord. May we learn to obey the word as we regularly see it alongside each other. No, may we not neglect loving one another and taking the gospel to our neighbors. But may we know that the word of God and the ordinances of the church are the things we have that are not available in some other social club in our cities and towns.
Do you want excellent music? Go to a concert. Do you want excellent drama? Go to a play. Do you want to be surrounded by cheering people who all have the same goals as you? Go to a sporting event. Do you want great activities for your kids while you get a little time off? Go to any number of kids’’ clubs, day-cares, or even the Y.
But, do you want to hear the voice of God ringing from the pages of holy Scripture? Do you want to hear who your Lord is and what he calls you to do and be? Do you want to know why you exist and how to have the highest possible joy? Do you want to know how to have a life beyond the few years you live on this earth? Do you want to know how to live in accord with the way that God designed you? Then find a church where the word of God is opened and faithfully taught. Find a church where they know that the word is what makes them different. Find a church where the preaching of the word is given priority. Find a church where they will let go of trying to compete with the world’s level of entertainment. Instead, find a church where Scripture, Scripture, and more Scripture are the orders of the day.