This week I am at the Bible Centred Youthwork conference, a conference dedicated to focusing the work among children and young people in our churches on the principles and content of the Bible.
Yesterday, I shared my notes for the day and a simple thought/reflection on the what particular struck me that day. Here are my notes and thoughts from the two main sessions on Day 2.
Communication: Speaking, sent from God
2 Corinthians 2:15-27, 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Corinthians loved good speakers, rich rhetoric, eloquence, and so on. Looking at Paul’s letter, we can see three dangers.
Danger of the seduction of form over content
We get sucked in by humour, style, delivery, etc (3 point sermons with acrostic headings?) and end up trying to mimic our favourite preacher.
But this isn’t usually a big danger for people who want to take the Bible as the very Word of God.
Danger of tampering with the word of God
We might be tempted to tamper, soften, and lessen the Word of God to make it more palatable. But again, if we have a high view of Scripture then this is unlikely.
Danger of mis-applying Paul and Corinthians
If we hold the Bible and apostolic teaching in high regard, the danger we need to be aware of and act against is the danger of mis-applying Paul’s situation directly to ours. Paul says to set forth the truth plainly because that is what the Corinthians needed. Therefore, we don’t think about communication or style or rhetoric, etc.
But this overlooks the overwhelming weight of communication in the Bible (Jesus’ teaching, Paul’s preaching to the gentiles, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, Hebrews). Plus, directly applying Paul’s approach with the Corinthians to us overlooks the fact that our culture doesn’t just value good communication… it needs it. Unless something feels like it is going to be worth listening to, people just switch off and brush it aside as being ‘irrelevant’.
Is God pleased with us when we justify boring teaching as being ‘faithful’?
Be deliberately intentional about your communication of the Gospel in your context
We need to work hard at communication in our cultural context.
Two key questions we need to consider and address:
- So what?
- Who cares?
Two things to remember about our culture:
- People know next to nothing about the Bible.
- They think they know everything.
Helpful acronyms on good communication
What makes messages stick? SUCCES…
Maybe add ‘Humour’ to this (but that makes ‘SUCCESH’, which makes you sound Dutch).
Types of helpful illustrations… FOAM
Facts and stats
Opinion and quotes
Remember: it is not an either/or between communication and content. Both are needed for faithful preaching and communication of the Bible and Gospel truth.
An empowered task
2 Corinthians 4
We are facing/will face trials of many kinds, but we do not lose heart (v1, 16). Here’s why…
We do not lose heart because our task comes from God (v1-3)
We are on royal business, we serve the King. Faithfulness to our King is our measure of success, not what others think or how prosperous or ministry is.
We do not lose heart because the fruit comes from God (v4-6)
We preach Christ (we carry out our task, often within the context of partnership with others). It’s Jesus who makes his light shine in our hearts. When that happens, of course it is a great motivator and spurs us on. There is nothing better than being a ‘midwife’ at the birth of a new believer. But that new birth (the fruit) comes from God, not us.
We do not lose heart because the power of the Gospel life is from God (v7-12)
We are fragile creatures in need of much care and attention. We break easily. Yet the treasure of the Gospel is found in us, and the power needed to turn from sin and live the Gospel life is given to is by God. It is from him.
In a culture where people are often made to feel worthless, people need to hear this all the more.
We do not lose heart because kingdom growth comes from God (v13-15)
Jesus is bringing more and more people into his kingdom daily. This growth comes from him, not us. Even if we rarely see growth in our local church, Jesus will continue to save more and people. We must remember that the church is local and national, but it is also global and throughout time.
We do not lose heart because the rewards rest with God (v16-18)
The grace of God already received is motivation for persevering in Christ, but it is not the only motivation. We have grace waiting for us: the hope of new eternal life that is hidden with Christ in God. This too motivates us to continue in Christ despite whatever light and momentary difficulties (compared to new life in eternity) that we face. There is also the harvest of our labour when we get to see the work that God is doing and will do through us.
My thoughts from the day
In the first session of the day, it was refreshing (so refreshing) to hear someone who clearly has done their Bible work and holds it in high regard also hold up good communication as an essential component of being faithful in our Bible teaching. It saddens me to hear great communicators who have clearly not spent time anchoring what they are saying in the Bible. But I think it saddens me more to hear spot-on Bible teaching present in such a way that drains the life from my very soul!
Good communication bereft of Biblical foundations is like junk food – it tastes great but is just not good for you. Good biblical exegesis without proportionate time spent on how you are going to communicate this truth is like space food – everything you need to live but it tastes crap. We need to strive to be preachers who preach roast dinners – sermons and talks that are rich in goodness (Biblical truth and sound doctrine) but also taste amazing (easy to listen to and engage with).