Travel Diary 13: The Priority of Preaching

Dear Friends and Family,

I am starting this report at 9:45am on Monday in Abuja, Nigeria. Why is the time significant? It is because I was told we would start about 9am. Then when I was picked up today at 8:30, I was told we would start about 9:30. Now I am told it will be later because, suddenly, there is no gas at the gas stations and so the public transportation is mostly shut down.

 Pastor Nok, ITEM Coordinator, reminded me that there was gas available everywhere yesterday, Sunday, but now on Monday there is very little available anywhere and there are long lines at the stations. And since most of those who are planning on attending today’s preaching seminar rely on public transport, they are stranded trying to find a ride. So, what do we do?

 

THE PLAN

The plan was to start no later than 9:30 and go to noon, with a short break at some point during the morning. Then a couple of sessions after lunch and try to be done by 3pm so the men can get started before the afternoon traffic jam. 

Editorial note: Men are starting to show up so I’ll stop. My goal is NOT to cover content. We don’t have time. My goal now is to persuade them to take their preaching ministry more seriously than ever before and consider switching to the expository method, which is an ITEM non-negotiable and distinctive.

(Later: 5:30pm)

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

This ended up being a blessed day. I believe the attendees enjoyed it and I know I certainly did! I won’t re-hash the entire day but will cover a few things that we covered.

STILL AN INCH DEEP? WHY?

I talked about a study I heard about years ago that concluded that the church in Africa is still only an inch deep spiritually because the Word of God has never taken root. Then I told them that ITEM’s commitment is to see that change one church at a time.

*PARTICIPATE IN GOD’S PLAN AND PURPOSE

God’s plan is for each believer to be conformed to the image of Christ and part of the process is hearing and applying the principles of God’s Word, and the preacher is the instrument through which God wants the teaching process to take place. In other words, the preacher must see himself as a participant with God in seeing members of his church being conformed to Jesus’ image.

MATURITY IS THE GOAL

I used a study of Col 1:21-29 as an example of an expository sermon. I went through the passage as if I was preaching it and pointed out that Paul’s goal was to admonish every person, teach every person so that he might present every person complete/perfect/mature in Christ (v. 28). And for that purpose, he labored (v. 29).

I love talking about preaching and challenging pastors to preach the whole counsel of God not just their favorite verses. But the highlight, as usual, were the questions, and surprisingly, one gave me a great opportunity to apply what I’ve been learning as I study apologetics. Here are some examples.

Q&A

Q: You pointed out that Paul didn’t volunteer but was appointed by God to be a minister/preacher (1 Cor 9). What do you think about pastors who volunteer to be a pastor? ANS: I pointed out that Paul did not serve as a minister for the money. In fact, he didn’t charge for his ministry. He offered the gospel free of charge. Then I suggested that we can’t tell if someone is a volunteer or if they were called by God. It’s a personal thing BUT if they charge others for their prayers or ministry, I would have to doubt their call. 2 Pet 2 makes it clear that false prophets are greedy.

Q: I the context of ECWA (a denomination), pastors are paid a salary. Is that wrong. ANS: Of course not. 1 Cor 9 gives reasons why the pastor should be paid. Then I asked, “If ECWA ran out of money and said, ‘sorry, we can’t pay you anymore.’” Would you quit the ministry? If you are called and appointed by God, then like Paul, you cannot quit and you will serve without pay, if necessary.

Q: The Bible is inspired. And in the book of Acts people were selling everything and sharing with others. Why don’t people do that today? ANS: The book of Acts recorded what happened in that day NOT what ought to happen today. Then I explained the principle of getting our doctrine out of the epistles NOT out of the narratives.

Q: How do you use the expository method of preaching in a narrative passage? ANS: Great question! Preach from longer passages. Tell an entire story then apply the principles.

(At one point today I talked about the Proverbs and said they cannot be claimed as stand alone promises and one example was Prov 22:6 – raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Then I pointed out that 70% of our kids are walking away from the faith when they enter university.)

 Q: When you were talking about Prov 22:6, you said 70% of the youth are leaving the church and faith when they reach the University. What can we do to keep that from happening here? ANS: (NOTE: This is the exact kind of question I’ve been learning give a reasonable answer to.) I told them that kids need more than just being taught “what” to believe. They also need to be taught “why we believe it.” And to say, “Because the Bible says so…. doesn’t work like it used to. We need to be able to give a reasonable answer. We need to tell them “what” to believe and also “why” to believe it. I also suggested that we teach our children the Bible as history and it is sequential and avoid framing everything in storybook sounding fairy tales.

There were other really good questions that I can’t remember right now. But each question, it seemed, gave me an opportunity to speak to the issue of either preaching or preparing the sermon.

TUESDAY

I am told by ITEM coordinator, Nok, that the Covid-tester will be here early and bring the results back later in the day. Sometime after breakfast I will meet with the ITEM team…. first time in three years! We’ll review ITEM distinctives, the E4 Church Strategy, review where are ministry wise in Nigeria and where we need to head, then how to get there. Things should be done by early afternoon then I can set my sights completely on home!

Again, thanks for praying and please start praying for a safe, healthy return (oh, and a negative covid test….I feel fine but……)

By His grace,
Steve

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