I came across this quote last week while working on my dissertation’s history chapter: “Protestants believed that preaching was ‘the ordinary means of salvation,’ for which there was no substitute. But less dogmatically and more pragmatically, historians can agree that without their being preached, or imparted through a sustained process of catechizing, the essential protestant doctrines, and concomitant religious experience, were unlikely to take root. Not far short of the end of the [16th] century, a Kentish minister claimed that when he canvassed opinion in parishes where there had been no preaching, hardly anyone knew they could never be saved by their own moral endeavours. Justification by faith alone was something of which they knew nothing.”
And if preaching today is doctrine free (most popular Christian music and songs in worship certainly are)? If those few minutes between congregation and pulpit have more stories, jokes, and self-help moralistic bumper stickers or tweets than doctrine or exposition of Scripture? Read the quote again. Parishes had lost the Gospel. Lost it.
Pastors must preach the Gospel often to themselves, and constantly to the congregation. Congregants must, too, learn to preach it to themselves, and preach it to others.
The above quote reminds me of something I was taught when I was being mentored in ministry: ultimately, the problems in the church can be traced back to the pulpit.
When I taught a preaching class several years ago, I told them the first thing I wanted them to do when preparing notes was to mentally (or literally, if need be) put a cross on the page. Plan from the beginning on getting to the cross, getting to the Gospel.
Artist Shai Linne’s new album is entitled Still Jesus (Lampmode, 2017). I hope it is still Jesus alone for us, Church. It will only be so if we are purposeful and constant about it. What has Jesus done? Why is it needed? How is it the only remedy for our greatest problem? Do we still believe this? When we hear of problems in the world or in an individual’s life, is the first solution that comes to our mind still Jesus?
Battle for the parishes (or whatever we call them in all the places we live). They must know the Gospel of Jesus Christ.