Preaching and Pastoral Care (1)
As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men. (Mark 6:34-44)
What is preaching? What is pastoral care? What is the relationship between them both? In seeking an answer to these questions, I will consider what preaching is and what it is not, what pastoral care is and what it is not, and then look at the relationship between them.
Does anybody except preachers believe in preaching anymore? One might even ask, does anybody except church believe in church anymore? Are church and preaching pointless?
The decline of church and preaching has come to the attention of Rob Warner, who notes that, as communication to the inhabitants of the television age, some of our Sunday services are pointless. He put it starkly: “We are boring people to hell.” He further declares that “The modern world will not be reached effectively by traditional forms of church.” Preaching, too, is frequently seen as boring and out-of-date, and Stott believed that “Whatever is dull, drab, dowdy, slow or monotonous cannot compete in the television age.” Let us then examine what preaching is and what it is not, and whether it has any relevance in the television age.
I WENT TO CHURCH TODAY – I NEEDED THE SLEEP
For some people, the sermon is that part of a church service where they get some sleep! So why is it that preaching is, or is regarded as being, boring? “Is preaching merely an out-of-date form of entertainment?” as Lloyd-Jones asked. If so, it is a form of entertainment that is largely unpopular in the face of video games, virtual reality, television and film. “However,” says Gibbs, “In whatever form it takes, entertainment is no substitute for participation.”
According to Stott, “Television challenges preachers to make our presentation of the truth attractive through variety, colour, illustration, humour and fast-flowing movement.” Is that what those who attend church in these days experience in the sermon? Or is it that most people have no meaningful church connection and are therefore an unchurched people? According to Warner, “If we are serious about taking the good news of Christ to today’s world, we must face squarely the vast chasm of disconnectedness between the church and an unchurched society.”
The preacher is not in the pulpit merely to talk to the people because he or she is not there to entertain them; he or she is there to produce results of various kinds, he or she is there (hereafter ‘he’ for ease of writing) to influence people. He is there to deal with the whole person; and Lloyd-Jones maintained that “His preaching is meant to affect the whole person at the very centre of life.” He is there to make a difference, and preaching should make such a difference to a man who is listening that he is never the same again. “Preaching is a transaction between the preacher and the listener,” said Lloyd-Jones.
The transaction that takes place through preaching motivates Christians to grow, according to Prime; it prepares God’s people for works of service, and encourages people to learn. But, as Gibbs has rightly pointed out, people learn by being involved, not by passive observation. Lloyd-Jones said that “The business of the Church, and the business of preaching, is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner.” Are preachers merely problem solvers?
Differentiation must be made between preaching and teaching. I would suggest that one difference is this: That preaching tells people what they ought to do, and teaching shows them how to do it. Is that a valid distinction?
There is no point in teaching people to do something if they do not know that they need to do it or should do it. Ability is of no value if is not translated into obedience, but those who do not know what they ought to do cannot obey, and education is no substitute.
Therefore, preaching is, “By its very nature a revelation, not an exhortation,” according to Stott. This revelatory preaching is indispensable to Christianity, he thinks. Forsyth declares that “With its preaching Christianity stands or falls.” Is preaching really that crucial to Christianity?
Milne said that “The public exposition of Scripture in the power of the Spirit has incalculable significance for the renewal and growth of the people of God.” He goes on to say that “The church cannot live above the level of its expository preaching, preaching which is concerned essentially to lay bare the teaching of the Bible and apply it relevantly.” Is preaching really that crucial to Christianity?
Stott declared that “The preacher’s task is to enable God’s revealed truth to flow out of the Scriptures into the lives of the men and women of today.” Is that only way that truth can flow? Is it even the primary way for truth to flow? Is Christ and Christianity so dependent upon human preaching?
Stott seems to thinks so: “When the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the Living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before His throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. That is why preaching is unique and irreplaceable.”
The Bible has organic moral relevancy to the conscience of humanity, according to Forsyth. Lloyd-Jones pointed out a danger he saw: “We have become such experts, as we think, in psychological understanding, at dividing people up into groups, and at adopting modern psychological theories that we have forgotten the Holy Spirit and his power.” Goldingay maintains that “The Spirit who indwells the preacher and works through him or her is also the Spirit who indwells the congregation and works in them. Preaching needs to relate to the spirituality of the congregation.”
John Stott loudly lamented that “We are so decorous, we are so controlled, we do everything with such decency and order that there is no life, there is no warmth, there is no power! But that is not New Testament Christianity. Does your faith melt and move your heart? Does it get rid of the ice that is in you, the coldness in your heart, and the stiffness? The essence of New Testament Christianity is this warmth that is invariably the result of the presence of the Spirit.”