This is the first post in several I’ll be doing in what I call “remote blogging.” A few times when Tim Challies and others have been at conferences, I’ve shared extracts from their posts here on my blog. This time Tim is not at the Resurgence Conference on Preaching, but the Resurgence folks are offering live videocasts of their sessions.
Here, then, are my thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s talk, which is taking place right now as I’m listening to it sitting in my room here in London. (Incidentally … No! I’m not in my pajamas!) The usual “rules” apply—these are my notes taken in real time, and I may well have missed important bits or imported a few of my own ideas as I go along! This was posted within seconds of Driscoll ending his sermon. I’m trying to decide whether to stay up another hour or so to cover Mahaney. I know I won’t be able to do all of them! Whether I do CJ’s will depend on if they have worship or start straight with him at 4 p.m. Seattle time.
In the first session Driscoll began with a rallying call to put preachers in their rightful place. The world came into existence with a sermon preached by God. The Bible is full of “God said …” God’s Word does what it is intended to do and brings life. We preachers are following God’s example. God is not the only preacher. In Genesis 3, the serpent preached a false message. Satan tells us we need not preach because he would like his voice to be the only one heard. Our forefathers listened to the wrong sermon, but even after that, God preached another sermon which promised the coming of Jesus.
Proclamation is crucial—Jesus was announced by John the Baptist’s preaching. Jesus’ own ministry began with preaching, and so should ours! Jesus was a proclamation preacher; he didn’t say, “Let’s discuss it in groups”! It infuriates Driscoll that ANYONE can call into question the validity of preaching when God does it, then comes to earth and preaches! Yes, Jesus did other things, but he was a preacher first and foremost. He drew crowds. Jesus had thousands come to hear him.
The first thing that must be proclaimed is the cross of Jesus for our sins and in our place. Liars who work for the devil will tell you that you don’t need to proclaim the cross centrally as it is offensive. But if you don’t preach it you will offend God. Seeker insensitivity is “hot.” Preaching needs to be anointed by the Spirit. When the Spirit came at Pentecost, they immediately went out and preached! And the Church was born! The preached word brought forth the Church, just as God’s original preached Word brought forth creation.
We should connect the ground war with the air war, that is, connect the small groups to the Sunday sermon and apply them there. The Apostles were devoted to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Driscoll went through Acts showing the emphasis that was placed on proclamation preaching.
We must keep on preaching in spite of persecution. Some of us are too cowardly. After one lousy e-mail, we’re in the fetal position and our wives are rubbing our backs. We need courage. People will react. When people say we need to do things in the way the early Church did them, Driscoll agrees. “Let’s yell at people!” We have to protect our people from the wolves! The world is full of wolves—they’re publishing books, making videos, etc. There is so much preaching in Acts. Don’t let your people dishonor the pulpit. Some of us, in an effort to be humble, allow others to be proud.
The reformers defined the Church. The Church is both universal and local. The Church is both visible and invisible. They discussed what constituted a rightly gathered Church. They said it was about preaching the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. The Church is led by Jesus. He is not just our example. He is no longer merely a humble marginalized peasant. If we could see Jesus today we would see him like Isaiah saw him—glorified! We must teach Jesus’ exaltation, not only his incarnation.
The Church needs qualified leaders. These need to be male. This issue is a “border issue.” If you don’t teach male elders, then you are in a different country! Everything will be seen differently. The gospel must be preached by those men. The sacraments must be administrated—baptism and communion, and Church discipline must be carried out. In preaching, the Word is heard, in sacraments the Word is seen, and in Church discipline the Word is protected.
Driscoll challenged us. When was the last time you called your people to repentance and brought them to the Lord’s table? When was the last time your church disciplined someone who persistently lived an unrepentant life while claiming to be a Christian? The authority comes from the head of the Church. Elders must be godly. Their life styles need to be worthy of imitation. Preaching is not all that we must do in churches—but it is the FIRST THING WE MUST DO! It is the air war. Everything else comes after it—the ground war. Everyone is looking at the effects, no one is asking about the cause!
Driscoll was very clear about the invalidity of many groups today who function as “house churches,” but have no authority and no preaching. God’s grace is one-way, and so is preaching. Many emerging churches try to build communities without leadership, and without a declaration of God’s Word. How can such a group be a church if no one is preaching the Bible?
The devil tried to have a debate—did God really say? Why should anyone tell you what you have done wrong?
Preachers—you must preach FOR your church. You must preach knowing what a church is. Leaders must build, defend, protect, and shepherd their church. “Internet churches” are not churches as there are no sacraments, no authority, no relationships, and no church discipline. Multi-campus churches need a bit more than just a screen for the preaching to be displayed. Although Driscoll’s church does have many campuses, each campus has its own pastor who performs the sacraments, disciplines, and pastors.
Driscoll ended with the last sermon preached—that in Revelation 14. It was preached by an angel. God was the first preacher. An angel is the last preacher. In-between, we are to preach. What an awesome responsibility!