Today I continue with part three of my interview with Greg Haslam. In part one, Greg told us a little about himself, and in part two he discussed his relationship to Newfrontiers and his move to Westminster Chapel.
If Westminster Chapel has stood for anything over the years it is surely the primacy of preaching. Can you tell us a bit more about your own view of preaching and its importance?
I’ve said it all in the collection of fifty-two addresses from our Preachers’ Conference, now published as Preach the Word! (Sovereign World 2006). Preaching is primary because, along with dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit, just about everything else that’s good in the Church and in individual lives flows from it. Done well, through accurate explanation and application of the Scriptures in Spirit-empowered preaching, God’s voice is heard, God’s people obey him, and incredible life in the Spirit is the certain result. We live at a time of increasing Biblical illiteracy among even lively evangelical Christians. Sick churches are all too numerous. Christians are ignorant of their faith and often too cowardly to defend and share it with others. Preaching goes a long way to remedy these things.
I believe we need to see restored to the Church every “flavor” of word-ministry listed in Ephesians 4:11ff—apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and didactic—so that our people are theologically well-informed, compassionate, skilled, missional, cutting edge, and truly well-grounded. When we pray for revival we are primarily praying for preachers and a new visitation of the Holy Spirit. Preaching should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed! It’s not “any old style of preaching” we need; it is the living voice of Christ speaking his “now word” to his Church. This is why the prophetic dimension to good preaching is essential, whether the preacher is an evangelist, a pastor, a teacher, an apostle, or a prophet, and I believe in the present-day ministry of all five (see my chapter “Ephesians 4 ministries and Church Unity” in Preach the Word!).
What do you feel about the state of preaching in the Church as a whole today? Are you encouraged or discouraged?
Mostly discouraged. Sermons seem to represent some form or expression of “Christianity Lite.” They are short, trendy, adrift from the serious handling of Scripture, apologetic, flirting with post-modernism, fearful of any note of authority, caught up with the “spirit of the age,” often “politically correct,” and mostly ineffective. We tend to sound like the “Court prophets” of Israel in the pay of the king, rather than those who have “been in the counsel of the Most High” and then dare to speak what we have seen and heard! Preaching should convey a sense of awe and fear in the presence of a transcendent God — not just God all-matey but God Almighty!
It was due to my growing perception of the perilous state of preaching in the UK that I gathered nineteen of the best preachers this country has to offer in order to speak at the eight-month conference Preach the Word! in 2003-2004. The result more than met my expectations, and the 650 delegates who enthusiastically attended seemed to share my opinion!
I took less than an hour to plan the contents. I wrote over fifty themes we should address and then picked about twenty top guys to address them. All but two accepted, and what a brilliant job they did! We had outstanding pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, and apostles. I basically urged them not to go to their graves along with all of their best secrets! They came up with the goods and shared brilliantly their best insights into preaching and how to do it well. The speakers included many personal heroes like John Stott, Terry Virgo, David Pawson, and Jeff Lucas. In fact, most of them are my much admired friends. I receive testimonies regularly, from home and overseas, as to just how effective this material has proved to be. The event was a true Word and Spirit gathering, and all of our lives were changed by it.
How did you manage to bring together such a wide variety of preachers for this conference and book? Did you find that you all agreed about preaching, or did you have a wide range of differing perspectives to discuss?
They were nearly all extremely enthusiastic and willing to do this. They ranged from fairly conservative evangelicals, through radical charismatics. There were Anglicans, Free Churches, Charismatics, and Restorationists. Some were Arminian, others Calvinistic in theology, and all points in-between. Between them all, there was an accumulation of hundreds of years of experience in leading and preaching ministry (perhaps thousands of years!). They all got on well together, and the atmosphere of each day was terrific. They had differing emphases, but all honored God and the Bible, and all were convinced about the importance and centrality of preaching. The wide range of perspectives present was what made this conference somewhat unique and so invaluable. It fostered the kind of unity I believe in. And some people changed their prejudices, and their minds, on some controversial issues as a result.
Can you tell us a bit more about the main message of your book and why my readers should go out and buy it?
The main message is this: “We need better preaching, biblical preaching, Holy Spirit anointed preaching, effective preaching, with signs following. And here are some big clues as to how this can happen.” What more could you ask?
Continued in part four, “Greg Haslam On Unity Versus Doctrinal Integrity.”