Some thoughts thought along the mail route today:
I reflect often on the inclination of Christians-praying, church attending, Bible reading Christians-to desire something more from their Christian life than, well, what I just described. There is, it seems to me, a very pervasive attitude that says, "yes, praying, church, Bible reading. All well and good, but I want something more. I want God to speak to me personally." I want to address, not the sole cause of this, but a particular cause that I believe to be both large and overlooked. Let's start with some Bible.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
2 Timothy 3:16-4:2
I have read a number of blogs, articles, etc, addressing the problem of what we might call Christianity plus, where the author turns to this passage to make the point that, ''hey guys, the Bible is enough!'' I have, in fact, done this myself. It's a good point to make, a Biblical point to make, an important point to make. The Bible is all we need. If you want a personal word from the Lord, look no further than His personal revelation of Himself.
That being said, many folks who faithfully read that Bible which is God's self-revelation, and walk away feeling...blah, perhaps? This has often been the case for me. And though my sample pool of acquaintances is not particularly large, many conversations I've had reveal a similar experience. Coming to the Bible is supposed to do what, exactly? Cause keeping my eyes open seems hard enough.
Now combine a typical evangelical Christianity that emphasizes a dynamic, thriving, and above all, personal, relationship with Jesus, and add to that our lethargic experience of the same; is it any wonder many are left discouraged, wanting more? Here is where I want us to notice something in the words of Paul to young Timothy.
Paul tells Timothy that the very words of Scripture are breathed out by God, and, being God's words, they are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Why? That the man of God may be equipped for every good work. Scripture itself is enough to do this. Now, here is the kicker. What does Paul charge Timothy to do in reply to this information regarding the nature, sufficiency, and power of God's word? He tells Timothy to "Preach the word!" (NKJV)
God has ordained that through His word He will teach us, reprove us, correct us, train us in righteousness, and fit us for every good work (and let us not forget, to lead us to Himself through Jesus, see 1 Tim 3:15). But He has also ordained the means by which His word will do this. Namely, preaching. The preached word is not merely the transmitting of information from the preacher to the people. As others have pointed out, there are more effective ways for information to be passed along, shared, and remembered. Preaching, by definition, is the proclamation of God's word to God's people. It has at its heart not the mere transfer of facts, ideas, or life tips, but the proclaiming of what Almighty God has done in Christ, and how we are to respond. Preaching is, to use the Old Testament language, "thus says the Lord." And when His word is preached, and applied to hearts by His Holy Spirit, it is then that it does its work of teaching, correcting, etc.
Most of you reading this are not preachers. Neither am I. I used to have that opportunity fairly often, but for the last year my primary experience of preaching has been from the pew. What would happen, I wonder, if we walked into church on Sunday morning with an expectancy to hear the word of the Lord? What if, instead of expecting that God was going to show up in my quiet time in a still small voice (a silly expectation, frankly), I could know that He speaks clearly through His word, and that I would hear it audibly proclaimed to my ears and to my heart, every Sunday morning at 8:45? Perhaps my time in God's word during the week would be more satisfying if I understood that time to be a supplement to sitting regularly under the ministry of the word. Perhaps Jesus really is calling-through the voice of the man in the pulpit.