On the occasion of our pastor retiring last Sunday, I wanted to give three examples of him in action. The first one would be in a meeting where he is giving the Word, which will be the remainder of this post!
Giving the Word
This I would suggest has been a central ministry of his, and what you will get in a sermon consists of the following: consistent research and context of the Bible passage or topic under discussion; clear definition of terms; the addressing of issues and concerns that the text gives rise to; a feel in the sermon that you are going somewhere, the foot is on the gas, and there are very definite turns and swings in the journey; occasionally the foot comes off the pedal enough to enjoy the view, and to get historical anecdotes or pithy, sharp observations of how people conduct themselves to consider alongside the biblical message.
But an account of his sermon style would not be complete without commenting on the fact that somewhere towards the end of the sermon there will often come a point, slightly taking you by surprise, but lifting you up off your feet in the spirit, where his voice becomes raised and urgent in pitch, where gesture comes into play (not so noticeable on podcast), where he is leaning into the ground and then declaiming at the sky, and it will usually be into a key revelatory truth about the gospel or about God. It is never a blast at the congregation, but it is sometimes a blast at our pretences, our misunderstandings; it can be a blast at wolves in sheep’s clothing or at the lies of the devil and of the world. It is followed by a rapid shift in gear, as if we had negotiated an especially hairy stretch of road, and we marvel that we have come through sow ell – followed by a clear adn gentle summary of God’s heart for His people.
In addition to the quality control that comes with his preaching, you also get overarching direction between sermons. Sermon topics do not tend to come from nowhere, but they build and develop, sometimes over longer stretches, and sometimes over more condensed patterns. If he is given a topic to preach on, he will do it justice – and that cannot always be said of any preacher and any topic.
Over the years, I have known many people who have attended CCF (Chichester Christian Fellowship) and now King’s Gate, with a chief reason to benefit from his preaching. Just a glance at his back catalogue shows that he has given a lifetime to the faithful exposition and teaching from the Word, generous, wise, careful, revelatory ‘honey from the rock’.
A distilled way in which to glimpse how his preaching gift works would be in a Body Ministry meeting in which he brings a five to ten minute word. While the longer 30 to 45 minute sermons will build slowly, and feel earnest, purposeful, studious at times but never academic (in other words, always bent towards a practical aim), his shorter words might stem from a snatch of Scripture, or a picture, or just a word of knowledge, and as he speaks, a few related scriptures will fly out, and suddenly a seismic revelation – there for the taking – will be presented, leaving you gasping at the grace of God. A memorable example includes an impromptu exposition of Isaiah 53. Like any good workman, he has many tools in his box and uses them with discernment. Also, he is ready to preach the word in season and out of season, and rises to the occasion.
Next post: Tribute to a Pastor Part Two – Leading a Meeting