I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
~ 2 Timothy 4:1-2
Paul’s urge to Timothy was to PREACH the WORD, to be ready! To reprove, rebuke, and exhort? How? By preaching the Word. I fear that often times in ministry we spend as much or maybe even more time in preparing other parts of our service, that we neglect the Word.
- We worry about how to draw a crowd
- How to keep a crowd
- Lets make sure they are entertained
- Make sure everyone is comfortable
These things aren’t necessarily bad by themselves, but the focal point of any and every ministry ought to be to Preach the Word. In the end we must remember that the Gospel alone has the power to save! It’s the Gospel alone that has the power to sustain! It’s the Gospel alone that has the power to sanctify! The Gospel has the power to draw men to Christ! The Gospel alone has the power to convert someone from death to life!
Let us not neglect giving the Gospel! We ought to be ready in season and out of season, meaning we should always be ready to present the Gospel. If we gather together in church, at a conference or some other gathering and the Gospel isn’t presented, have we wasted everyone’s time if the Gospel is not the focal point? I wonder this a lot when I attend conferences and other youth events, as I have worked with youth ministry for the past ten years in some shape or form. There seems to be a huge push of what can we do to get the students to come? How can we best connect with them? What will make want them to come back and bring a friend? All good questions again, we should want them to come and connect and bring a friend; whats better at doing that then the Gospel? Often times at these events it seems the attraction is the band or the funny speaker. It breaks my heart when after these events when talking to students there or seeing the Facebook and Twitter post and they are all about the band or the speakers funny stories, have we missed the point? Have we done our best attempt at drawing students in and left them empty? Maybe liking a cool band or only remembering the speakers funny stories, other than walking out going, “WOW God!” If the main thing remembered from a conference is the band or jokes, have we missed our opportunity? In an attempt to draw and to connect, do we allow these things to become the focal point of our ministry / event? Again, its ok to have bands, its ok to have a funny speaker, but if the funny stories are remembered and the passages taught and points made aren’t remembered, then the stories have become larger than the Gospel in our presentation.
No matter how cool or how funny, lives will only be changed by the power of the Gospel.
We must not forget this!
A few examples from Heroes paving the way before us:
If there was ever someone who could draw a crowd it was Him, but yet how many times do we see Him teach in such a way that the people who were only there for the show turned around a left sad, as He continued to pour into the ones who were serious about following Him, into the good soil.
In John 6, we see a large crowd following Him after He just fed 4000 people, and He turns to them and tells them you are only following me because I fed you; so unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot follow me. The crowds went away sad. Then He focused on teaching HIs 12.
Jesus, performed many miracles, and did many signs, but were these for the sole purpose of getting the crowds to come? Or were they to point to who He was, and the ones who were searching and believed He poured into them.
The one we started with charing Timothy to preach the Word at all times, and may the preaching of the Word be the way that we go about reproving, rebuking, and exhorting one another.
I think you can sum up Paul’s aim in ministry in two verses:
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
~ Colossians 1:28-29
Paul used all his energy, all his strength that the Lord worked in him for the purpose to teach will all that he had in order to present everyone mature in Christ. This has become my ministry verse. What a goal, to be able to present all those that you have taught and poured into, as mature in Christ! Only the Gospel has the power to mature us in Him!
Charles Spurgeon “The Prince of Preachers”
A man who has quickly become a favorite to read, a man who who continually points me to Christ and makes me want to understand and love Him more. I came across this on Justin Taylor’s blog on The Gospel Coalition website last week:
Why Spurgeon Thought the Plain Preaching of the Gospel Was Sufficient to Grow a Church
Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.
Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!
In this house we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. We beseech the people of God to mark that there is no need to try doubtful expedients and questionable methods. God will save by the gospel still: only let it be the gospel in its purity. This grand old sword will cleave a man’s chine [i.e., spine], and split a rock in halves.
How is it that it does so little of its old conquering work? I will tell you. Do you see the scabbard of artistic work, so wonderfully elaborated? Full many keep the sword in this scabbard, and therefore its edge never gets to its work. Pull off that scabbard. Fling that fine sheath to Hades, and then see how, in the Lord’s hands, that glorious two-handed sword will mow down fields of men as mowers level the grass with their scythes.
There is no need to go down to Egypt for help. To invite the devil to help Christ is shameful. Please God, we shall see prosperity yet, when the church of God is resolved never to seek it except in God’s own way.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563
He has constantly over the past 5-10 years of my life pointed me to Christ, through his books, sermons, and blogs, to love Christ more and find joy in following Him. I have written in the front of my bible a tweet he sent out almost two years ago:
“Every person who hears me preach will very soon be in Heaven or Hell. There is a seriousness that goes with this truth”
When asked about takeaways from speaking at Passion, Piper states that:
“In my 17 years with Passion I have never heard a joke or seen a silly skit from the stage. And that’s remarkable when you really think about it because a lot of student leaders think you have to yuck it up with college students and be as silly as the latest comedian or the latest talk show host in order to make them feel like your real. And Louie’s not like that and neither is Passion and 60,000 students are coming to a God honoring singing and preaching event that exalts Jesus Christ.”
Is it enough? Is the Gospel enough to draw, save, sanctify, and grow?
Yes let’s do our part to the best of our God-given abilities to draw in and connect with, but let us not forget that it’s the Gospel that saves! And if we are not giving them that, we are simply having a fun time with people who will soon be in Heaven or Hell, leaving happy, but perhaps not eternally satisfied!
As Paul would say to Timothy:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
* All Scripture taken from English Standard Version (ESV)
* The Gospel Coalition site of Justin Taylor’s blog: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/01/10/spurgeon-church-growt/
* Link to Piper interview: https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/john-piper-passion-2013
Great post Nick. I felt this for years. I ran across this quote on Twitter the other day ..
“Obsessions with culture & contextualization’s will make you a pragmatist not a prophet. More than ever, we need prophets in our pulpits.”
Blessings to you my friend!