In the 1980s I edited View from Farr and in the 1990s Auldcastle View. The past two decades have given me another perspective and so I am beginning a new series in my blog called View from the Pew.
It is specifically aimed at preachers, preaching and congregations. The reason for this is that whereas Reformation, almost by definition, is a national and international movement, a single congregation can hardly instigate a national Reformation of religion, yet a single congregation is capable of revival by ‘the diligent use of all the outward means’ of salvation (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question and Answer No. 85).
Many Christians think that nothing will happen until the Holy Spirit acts. They say that we need the Holy Spirit for revival. This is incipient hypercalvinism by setting divine sovereignty against human responsibility. Although such a sentiment is intended to give the Holy Spirit His proper role in motivating to godly action, in effect it blames the Holy Spirit for nothing happening. This is God-dishonouring. Nothing happens because the Holy Spirit will not play to their tune nor reward their inaction.
Rather, the Lord is waiting for His people to act Isa 30:18. He does not reward indolence Hag 1:4 and expects His people to be ‘workers together with Him’ 2Cor 6:1. It is conjoint action Php 2:12-13.
View from the Pew looks at what can be done at congregational level. Denominational level is another matter.
Preaching and preachers
Research has shown that most people learn their Christian doctrine from preachers teaching congregations from the pulpit. This is why so many people do not know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because there are so few people attending church to hear the Gospel, so few preachers preaching it fully, and even fewer preaching it in a winsome and fulsome manner.
Along with the decline in the art of public speaking has gone the decline in public preaching of the Gospel.
The content of preaching may be good but it may be delivered in a disengaging manner. Preachers need to prepare the content of their sermons but also the manner of delivery and how best to structure the burden of their message.
‘Because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge’ Ecc 12:9.
As one might expect from the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon in his Introduction to Morning by Morning demonstrates how much he studied the method of delivery as well as the subject of his message:– “The mind wearies of one thing, and we have therefore studied variety, changing our method constantly; sometimes exhorting, then soliloquizing, then conversing; using the first, second, and third persons, and speaking both in the singular and plural, and all with the desire of avoiding sameness and dullness. Our matter also, we venture to hope, is wide in its range, and not altogether without a dash of freshness.” This is a practical example of a preacher consciously putting zugology into action, which one would expect from a preacher of Spurgeon’s calibre. Would that others follow suit.
In the Introduction to his follow-up volume Evening by Evening, Spurgeon demonstrates zugology respecting his topics: “We have striven to keep out of the common track; and, hence, we have selected unusual texts, and have brought forward neglected subjects. The vice of many religious works is their dulness. From this fault we have striven to be free.” Zugology in the delivery of his messages and in the selection of his topics – even two similar companion volumes would not be the same if Spurgeon could help it. Variety is the spice of life and the Lord has demonstrated it in abundance in His Creation and in His Providence. Would that preachers develop the skill.
Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students has the experience of this wise preacher distilled in a volume not only worthy of every preacher and pastor’s attention but necessary for their improvement.
Click the tab View from the Pew at the top of this blogpost for a list of blogposts with this tab. You can list this and any other category from any page of the website by selecting the category View from the Pew under “Topics” in the right hand margin. Some useful ones are:
7 Apr 2012: Questions and answers in congregational life.
13 Feb 2013: Wise preaching.
28 Nov 2013: Sermon preparation.
8 Oct 2018: What should we expect from preachers?
25 Feb 2019: Pastors and teachers.