Brance Gillihan

Missionary, Servant, Learner

Brance Gillihan - Missionary, Servant, Learner

Augustine and Collaborative Preaching

There is an interesting article over at Lifeway.com. It’s from January of this year, but I just recently read it. It included the following quote from Augustine:

There are, indeed, some men who have a good delivery, but cannot compose anything to deliver. Now, if such men take what has been written with wisdom and eloquence by others, and commit it to memory, and deliver it to the people, they cannot be blamed, supposing them to do it without deception For in this way many become preachers of the truth (which is certainly desirable), and yet not many teachers; for all deliver the discourse which one real teacher has composed. [Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 4.29]

I’ve reflected on the Augustine quote, and I’ve got a problem with his logic (I think). Augustine draws a distinction between preachers and teachers. The one who studies and writes the sermon is the teacher, while the orator who delivers it is the preacher. He says this is an agreeable arrangement, as long as proper credit is given (i.e. “without deception”), in fact he argues that it is good because,

in this way many become preachers of the truth(which is certainly desirable), and yet not many teachers

He seems to be referring to James 3:1, which says,

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

OK, so this sounds reasonable to therefore say, “let’s just let the gifted teachers write, and everyone else can preach their sermons” and we honor James 3:1 in that way. The difficulty is that if the ones doing the preaching are doing so in the capacity of elders/pastors, then we have set James in opposition to Paul, who says that elders must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). We can’t say, “let’s have pastors who are orators but not teachers”, because the bible clearly states that the “able to teach” is a requirement for pastors, not “able to memorize and deliver someone else’s teaching”.

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Chasing the Culture

A recent court decision has legalized same-sex mirage (yes I meant that) in North Carolina, yet many church clergy members are forbidden by their ecclesiastical authorities from officiating at such proceedings. This, of course, puts the church on a collision course with the state.

One United Methodist minister however, sees it more as a game of follow the leader. With his encouragement, a homosexual couple in his congregation has filed a complaint against him, with the denomination (here’s a link to the story). It’s not that he didn’t want to officiate their mirage, but he is bound by the denomination.

Set aside the problematic nature of the idea that a homosexual couple are members in good standing in the congregation. What’s going on here is the exploitation of this couple, by their pastor, to precipitate a confrontation with his denominational bosses. The purpose of the confrontation is to force a change in policy at the denominational level.

So while wearing a coat of pastoral concern for his parishioners, his shirt is sporting an ideological slogan he has supported for years, even prior to becoming their pastor.

He previously wrote, on the subject:

The national opinion and political culture is rapidly changing on the issue of gay marriage. Our United Methodist denomination has failed to lead the way in this struggle for equality, and will once again have to catch up to the culture.

So, he sees a path leading in this direction (toward same-sex mirage) and makes the assumption that we all must travel this path, either as a leader or a follower. He doesn’t see a valid option for not traveling in that direction. After all, everyone else is going this way. And so his concern is that the culture got out front and his church denomination is left trying to catch the culture, when they should be leading it – in this direction.

Mr. Carpenter is completely confused. He wants the church to lead the culture into sin, and is upset when the church must play follow the leader as the culture leads into sin. I say he’s confused because he claims to be a minister of the Christian gospel. The church’s call to the culture should be, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Which is a call to turn away from sin and toward Christ. Instead, Mr. Carpenter is calling out to the church to turn from Christ and race the culture toward sin in an effort to get out in front and lead. The problem is that he is leading in the wrong direction.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14 ESV)

This Is Not Preaching

“The preacher who constructs sermons to serve illustration rather than solid biblical exposition inevitably drifts from pulpit to stage, from pastor to showman. Any trained public speaker can select a theme and gather a bundle of stories that will touch an audience emotionally, but this is not preaching. The proper focus of illustrations lies in presenting biblical truth in such a manner that it can be understood deeply and applied readily, rather than in providing popular enjoyment or pastoral acclaim.” [Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, p.190]