Preaching Through Suffering: Al Mohler's Message
This morning was the Convocation Chapel Service at Southern Seminary. President Al Mohler spoke to new and returning students about the responsibility of preaching. The message was stirring and challenging, as well as comforting for those of us who are in or are pursuing ministry in the local church. I am including my notes from the sermon for those interested.
Jan. 31, 2006 Albert Mohler
Colossians 1: 25-29
We must continually take stock of the Evangelical Church. Many churches today confess the importance of Biblical preaching, yet they don't do it. But preaching is the first mark of the Biblical church and where it is lacking there is no church. Everyone, whether they are a preacher or not, has the responsibility to understand the centrality of preaching, and that is the task we are a called to in some manner.
In 1941 H.H. Farmer recongized the diminishing place of preaching in the church. His book The Servant of the Word, though neo-orthodox, is a stirring criticism of the church, both then and perhaps today. Farmer does not go far enough in his assesment of the importance of preaching, but he is onto something when he writes this work. There is need for a revival in preaching among our day just as there was in the 1940s.
Someone older than Farmer, however, expressed even better the importance of the preached word. The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:25-29, teaches us not only why we should preach, but how. To be sure preaching was as controversial, as counter-cultural, in Paul's day as it was in Farmer's, and indeed is in our own day. But Paul says that the preacher has the responsibility to preach the word in season and out.
-We are to Preach even in Suffering:
In v. 24 Paul articulates that he will go through anything, any suffering of any kind, in order just to preach the word. In fact he goes even further than that when he says that he even rejoices in suffering in order that through it he might preach the word.
The truth of this passage is lost in the modern church. Christ triumphs in our weakness, not in our numbers, our dollars, and our votes. Today people are quick to talk about their church's numbers, and their influence in the convention- but rarely is a church distinguished by its preaching. Rarely is a church distinguished by the character, power, and content of its pulpit. Every pastor wants to see the numbers, to see the instant results of his ministry. But preaching is like farming: we plant the seed and we wait with patience to see the fruit. This is not the kind of instant gratification that we often look for. If you want instant results you will do something other than preach, but if you want to build God's church preaching is the non-substitutional mark of the church. Martin Luther said, "I preached the word and I slept, and while I slept the word did its work." We have to suffer for a while, waiting on the results is hard. But through the midst of it we preach!
Not only does Biblical preaching test our patience, but it brings conflict. As churches come to understand the significance of preaching they may at first feel their very lives assulted in preaching. From within and without the church often preaching brings conflict. As the world attacks the church we must continue preaching the Word. And in a time of persecution from the world there is not time for pulpit frivality. Some of us are fare too at home in the world and thus have a comfortability about speaking as the world. And if you are at peace in the world you have abdicated your calling! Beware- if there is no conflict in your ministry there is probably no content in your preaching.
-Paul doesn't just tell us to preach in suffering, he tells us how we can.
When we realize these four principles about preaching we can persevere through suffering.
(1) The Calling of the Preacher (v. 25)- Paul says he was made a minister. He did not sign up for it, he was called. So this is not a man's optional occupation, he is called by God to preach the word.
(2) The Benefit of the Church (v.25)- Paul says he preaches for the Benefit of the church. The preacher does not preach for his own sake, but for the sake of the congregation. We can't do this task on our own, we don't even deserve to do it- But God has called us and empowers us and it is His work. This morning, gathered in this room are those who have no right to preach. But we take up our calling with humility and confidence in God.
(3) The Content of the Message (v. 26)- The content of every sermon is the mystery of God. It is a mystery revealed. There is something mysterious about Christian preaching- in its communication and its content. It is not what the world expects to hear, and it is not man's idea. There is a glory in this meassage, not our own, for we proclaim Christ. There are three steps to preaching (v. 28)- 1. Proclaim (set forth the word, explain the text), 2. Warning (call for a response from the listener), 3. and Teach (apply the word to the life).
(4) The Purpose of the Message (v. 29)- Paul reports that he is struggling because there is a purpose in preaching. When the purpose of the preacher is to further the message of Christ, then he may struggle and yet persevere.