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The way to preach unfailingly.
Jesus is the most important Word anyone and everyone needs.
I am very grateful for the book, The Preacher’s Catechism, by Lewis Allen, which was gifted to me recently by a pastor friend (thanks, Jason!). The concept of the book is to be exactly as its namesake suggests — that is, to function as a catechism for preachers about preaching. Whereas other catechisms function as compendiums of doctrine explaining the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3), The Preacher’s Catechism reads as reservoir for preachers who are looking to depend their appreciation for the task to which they’ve been called — namely, “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
I’ve barely begun reading The Preacher’s Catechism and I’m already finding it rich with pastoral fortification. As a young pastor, this book (so far) is a blessing. By the same token, one of the questions I’ve sought to answer is, How can I equip myself and my ministry for the long haul? And, honestly, I think it boils down to one thing: show them Jesus. I’m not called to be a motivational life-coach or inspirational counselor or laugh-till-you-cry comedian. I’m called to lay open the Word and show the flock to which I’ve been called how Jesus is the point of all of it. Such is what Lewis Allen gets at in chapter 4 of the catechism, when he writes:
Why is the Bible such a thrilling and powerful book? Simply because it is all about Jesus Christ. We might say that the Bible is Jesus’s autobiography. This book is his book. Genesis to Revelation are sixty-six mirrors, held up by the Spirit of God so that you and I might see Jesus in his excellence.
We struggle to see Jesus, though. Our eyes are not accustomed to looking for Jesus in whole swaths of the Old Testament. Even when we get to the New Testament, we end up making our Bible reading (and sometimes our sermons) all about ourselves. We forget Jesus as we handle his Word, or we make Jesus the supporting actor as we try to play the lead role in God’s drama. No wonder the Bible is a dull book, when we forget that Jesus is its center. It was never actually about us in the first place (nor is it an interesting miscellany of facts, rules, ideologies, or life tips). The Bible is Jesus’s book, all that God has to show us about his Son, and all that we need to come to his Son and to be transformed by him. Make the Bible anything less than the discovery of Jesus, and no wonder we can so easily be dull preachers and disciples . . .
Our job as disciples who are also preachers is to discover that Jesus has at the heart of all Scripture. When we make that personal discovery, then our hearts will start to glow; and one they glow, they will soon start to burn . . . Our calling as preachers is to get that fire started in the hearts of those we preach to, as trust in him and praise for him are expressed in proclaiming him. As long as we are bringing Christ in all the Scriptures in the power of the Spirit, then we will not fail. (40, 42)
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that these are words which immediately appeal to me. Talking about the centrality of Christ in Scripture is like my love language. It really is a burning fire in me to study God’s Word and find (by the Spirit) the revelation of Jesus on each and every page. I’ve found that the Emmaus Episode might just be one of the most important post-resurrection interactions in recorded Scripture. The fallout from that Bible study has gone on to turn the world upside-down. As Jesus made it evident to those disciples that he really was the true and better Everything, he lit the match in the hearts of that motley crew, turning them into missionaries who would soon go on to set the whole world ablaze. And they did so by preaching Christ. He was the sum and substance of their message.
Why would I presume I can come up with anything better or more resonant or more necessary? I can’t. Ever. Jesus is the most important Word anyone and everyone needs. The way to preach unfailingly isn’t by pretending your acumen can get you by, but by humbling yourself enough to bring the message of Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus each and every Sunday. May God’s Spirit keep that flame burning for him for decades to come.
Grace and peace.
Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018).