Monday, November 26, 2012

An Encouraging Word

Recently, I went through the last 15 years of my sermons to catalogue them according to scripture reference, topic, etc. I don't know if you have ever attempted such a task, but let me say that it is daunting at the very least. I keep a copy of every sermon via notes or manuscript and thus have the data in which to compile. As I neared completion of my compilation, I noticed a trend in my sermons that concerned me. I have had a tendency to preach sermons which challenge people to do something (be obedient, pray, read the bible, witness, etc) more than any other genre (if you will) of sermon. There is nothing wrong with issuing challenges to God's people, however, when the bulk of one's proclamations major on challenge alone, I see a problem. The problem is a lack of balance.

Yes, the people need to be challenged, however, they also need to be encouraged. Our people need more than to be constantly challenged with a little bit of encouragement thrown in. Our people also need to hear sermons with are completely encouragin without loading on more challenges. To constantly challenge with little encouragement is unbalanced preaching.

Perhaps I am the only preacher who has had this problem but I don't think so. When I read in our state papers about denominational employees speaking to local groups, invariably the report is about how the speaker issued "such and such" challenge. In last Friday's online version of my state paper, the Biblical Recorder, the three lead news items have to do with speakers issuing challenges to their audiences. Once again, there is nothing wrong with sermons that challenge, however, there needs to be a balance with sermons that encourage. Perhaps I've been looking in all the wrong places, but I rarely see encouraging sermons.

I think people can only take so much challenge preaching. After continuous doses of challenges with little encouragement, I think our people begin to tune us out and we become less effective in our preaching. In most of the pastor conferences I have attended, at both the state and national levels, I have noticed the same phenomena of mainly challenge preaching. If there is any group of people who need to be encouraged today, it is pastors of local churches, and yet, we hear very little encouragement at pastor's conferences.

In addition, your local church has many hurting people listening to you every Sunday. Many of them are at a breaking point and they need an encouraging word from the Lord. The last thing many of your people need is another challenge. Many of them are just trying to get through the day. Surely you have an encouraging word for them from the Lord. I'm going to do my best to be more balanced in my preaching. I hope you do the same.

Remember, encouragement is not just for the hospital room or funeral parlor. It belongs in the pulpit as well.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Baptist Origins: Charles Spurgeon

"We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther and Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men." (From The New Park Street Pulpit, Volume VII, page 225).

"History has hitherto been written by our enemies, who never would have kept a single fact about us upon the record if they could have helped it, and yet it leaks out every now and then that certain poor people called Anabaptists were brought up for condemnation. From the days of Henry II to those of Elizabeth we hear of certain unhappy heretics who were hated of all men for the truth’s sake which was in them. We read of poor men and women, with their garments cut short, turned out into the fields to perish in the cold, and anon of others who were burnt at Newington for the crime of Anabaptism. Long before your Protestants were known of, these horrible Anabaptists, as they were unjustly called, were protesting for the "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism." No sooner did the visible church begin to depart from the gospel than these men arose to keep fast by the good old way. The priests end monks wished for peace and slumber, but there was always a Baptist or a Lollard tickling men’s ears with holy Scriptures, and calling their attention to the errors of the times. They were a poor persecuted tribe. The halter was thought to be too good for them. At times ill-written history would have us think that they died out, so well had the wolf done his work on the sheep. Yet here we are, blessed and multiplied; and Newington sees other scenes from Sabbath to Sabbath. As I think of your numbers and efforts, I can only say in wonder—what a growth! As I think of the multitudes of our brethren in America, I may well say, What hath God wrought! Our history forbids discouragement." (From The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1881, Volume 2, page 249).