At a 2009 Baptist World Alliance Conference in Holland, David Coffey delivered a paper called ‘Truth on Fire’ and offered 7 dimensions that any budding preacher must integrate; serving also as a reminder to experienced preachers of what is important.
The warning he offers, serves as the rubric for seeing what the 7 dimensions are trying to accomplish, and it comes from Bishop Quayle, who said, “It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher.” Indeed.
I was inspired to write this partly in response to the oft repeated calls that preaching has had its day. I disagree. Bad, shallow, weak, irrelevant preaching has had its day! But preaching proper is Gospel food for the starving soul. Even those who didn’t know they were hungry realise they were starving when they hear good preaching! Or to change the metaphor, you may be able to take the horse to water, but apparently, according to the proverb, you can’t make it drink! I disagree. Good preaching is not only the food we need, but the salt. If you put salt into the horses food, it will drink!
Preaching should feed the willing hungry, and drive the hesitant or unwilling to the water of life – which is Jesus himself.
Dimension 1: The preacher must be secure in their identity in Christ. Everyone has a worth before God even before the do anything for God. Coffey offers the ABCD of church life: A for Attendance figures; B for Building and Maintenance; C for Cash flow which sustains ministry; D for Discipleship. It is the preacher/minister who must, first and foremost, who is the prime practitioner in the congregation for what it means to be a life-long learner in the school of discipleship. In this sense, D comes way before ABC. Thus the main task of the preaching is to conform to God’s purposes in producing Christ-like disciples in the congregation, which he describes as painstaking and agonising.
Having sat under the excellent ministry of Dr David Coffey for a few years, I must say his wealth of wisdom and depth of insight is unsurpassed.
The primary gift of Dr Coffey (UK and world Baptist Supremo – my phrase not his) is in his pastoral integrity and love for the Church of Jesus Christ. He is a leader of leaders and is in himself a most excellent example of what a leader, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is like.
David spotted something within the pages of Scripture that few people would dare to see. That when God calls a person, they are incomplete, imperfect, sinful, even rebellious.
He writes, “It seems God only calls people who have struggles with faith. Having called them, he gets to work on the parts of their lives that are not yet perfect.”
Here are the examples he cites:
- Moses the reluctant leader (Exodus 3 & 4)
- Esther the courageous leader……eventually (Esther 4:12-17)
- Jonah the reluctant missionary
- John the Baptist – the preacher with doubts (Mat 11:1-3)
- Mary the homemaker with a ministry (Luke 2:19; 41-52)
- Martha the manager whose work was a distraction (Luke 10:38-41 & John 11:17-27)
- Peter the fisherman who nearly threw everything away (Mat 16:13-20 & 26:69-75)
- Apollos the gifted preacher who needed deepening (Acts 18:24-28)
- Philip the fisherman who lacked confidence (John 6:7; 12:20-22; 14:9)
- Paul the great Apostle to the Gentiles who battles with his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7-10)
My dear Christian brothers and sisters, God doesn’t call perfect people because He doesn’t save perfect people. He calls sinners because He saves sinners. Our job is to say ‘Yes’ to God and see what He does with our lives. Perfectionism has no place in the Christian life. Making us perfect is His job, and ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus’ (Phil 1:6).
Christian ministry and the Christian life is Cross-shaped for a reason.
The reason is Jesus Christ. Perfect people need not gather at the Cross (because they don’t exist)!
The only Perfect One was on the Cross.
He was broken so we would never have to be.
He is Perfect, for that is what we will be.