At last week’s Banner of Truth Trust Minister’s Conference, Alistair Begg, a Pastor from Cleveland with a large radio ministry, addressed us twice from 2nd Corinthains 5:11+ff on the subject of “Persuasive Preaching” [a change from the published topic]. Let me share a brief summary with you….
Professor John Murray once defined preaching simply as “a personal, passionate plea.” This was Paul’s passion and pattern as well, used in the synagogues where he reasoned and pleaded with men to believe the gospel. Such a ministry involves hardship and suffering; such preaching, says Begg, is “not a soft option” either. In fact, “if we do not share his divine compulsion, we will not stand amidst the afflictions.”
There are three peculiar challenges we must face if we are to undertake persuasive preaching…
(1) The PERSONAL challenge. We must face our natural inhibitions, and our sense of self-preservation. We must fight off that familiarity with the gospel that creates a loss of wonder and awe. We dare not let ourselves view preaching as a triviality — perhaps like Shakespeare’s grave-diggers who laugh and joke while doing their work.
(2) The CULTURAL challenge. Our culture is caught up with meaninglessness. Neil Postman, author of ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ points out that what modern audiences want from a presentation is no prerequisites, no perplexities and no exposition — in other words, they want entertainment. A fine example of this is found in ACTS 25, where Festus calls in Paul to ‘entertain’ King Agrippa & Bernice! [Begg’s retelling of the story/scene was most engaging!].
(3) The THEOLOGICAL challenge. We ought not to be hindered, says Begg, by our erudition and convictions “fearing we might impinge upon God’s sovereignty” in pleading with sinners to repent and believe. Most helpful here was his reference to MATTHEW 11:25-28, where the Lord’s strong teaching on election (“… no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him…”) is immediately followed by the Lord’s call to faith (“Come to Me!”).
These three challenges, and their related three “enemies” (confusion, conformity and complacency) must be met by three solutions: CLARITY, BOLDNESS & URGENCY — as we find back in 2nd Corinthians 5.
In his second address, Begg took us to ACTS 25:23-26, to further demonstrate Paul’s manner of persuasive preaching. The heart of this address took up Paul’s words, in order, under these headings:
1. religious heritage
2. opposition and persecution
3. divine intervention
4. explanation (the who, what, where, why… questions
6. application (switching to direct address to the king)
Through it all, Paul is winsome and kind, but clear, bold and urgent.