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Looking Back: Where have all the preachers gone?



Looking back to October 1972 and a key question.


Philip Rice asks the question


We have lost passion. The disciples remembered that it was written, ‘The zeal of thine house hath consumed me’. Enthusiasm is scarce. Conviction is conspicuous by its absence.

Preaching can never be simply the communication of interesting ideas nor just the occasion for a sharing of sentiment.

Richard Baxter preached ‘as a dying man to dying men’. St Paul felt ‘necessity laid upon him’. ‘Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.’

The Lord himself had this depth of feeling and involvement. He wept over Jerusalem and with a breaking heart cried, “How often would I have gathered thee…”

Jeremiah had it – a fire burned within him and he could not contain it. Moses had this same compulsion.

But where are the preachers now who are wholly engaged in their preaching – mind, soul and body – every power of their being fully exploited?

And where is the true Gospel declared? The Gospel that faces the fact of sin and ‘in the terror of the Lord persuades men’. The Gospel that engages and commands the whole personality of the hearer, not his mind only, not his heart only, not his will only, ie. Not simply ideas, not mere sentimentalism, not ordinary morality.

Alone among all creeds, ideas and philosophies does Christianity command all that is in me. “Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and in all that is within me, bless His holy name.’ “Unite my Soul to fear thy name.

The mind gives it consent, the conscience its approval, the heart is engaged, the will is committed. “Christ is all and in all.”

St Paul was so convinced of the truth of his Gospel, that he declared a curse on all who betray it, compromise it, dilute it – be he angel or man.

Luther saw that only the doctrine of justification by faith fully does justice to God’s essential being. It ‘lets God be God’. God may be Himself, altogether gracious, not obligated to any man. God’s grace is spontaneous, groundless, unmotivated. (Nygren)

O to hear a voice from our pulpits which awakes the hearers and stirs us to the depth of our being! “Deep calleth unto deep” and true preaching occurs when the ‘depths of God’ are made plain to us by the Spirit of God and are received into the depth of our being.