Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sermons: Information or Encounter?

Not a hard and fast line: encounters have information, of course! The beloved Doctor says:

The life of Christ is in us! It is not theory, it is a life-giving teaching, it is a life-imparting teaching. If I am preaching in the Spirit, as I pray God I am, I am not only uttering words to you, I am imparting life to you, I am being used of God as the channel of the Spirit and my words bring life and not merely knowledge. Do you accept that distinction? I am almost afraid sometimes for those of you who take notes, that you may just be getting the words and not the Spirit. I am not saying that you should not take notes, but I do warn you to be careful. Much more important than the words is the Spirit, the life; in Christ we are being taught, and built up in Him. So that in a sense, though you may forget the words, you will have received the life, and you go out aware of the life of God, as it were, pulsating within you. David Martyn. Lloyd-Jones, Christian Unity (Studies in Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verses 1 Through 16) (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), 114.


  1. You might be interested in this.

    …[Archibald] Alexander believed that ‘experience teaches that the intense exercise of memory tends to prevent the proper exercise of the feeling and the emotions, which the truth ought to produce’. Although not taking is very common during the preaching of sermons, it may actually prevent the hearer experiencing the power of the words as they are being spoken. Preaching is a dynamic activity with an existential dimension that cannot be reproduced or recaptured, even with good notes and outlines. Powerful preaching grips the hearer in the moment of delivery. Hearts and minds are swept away in response to what is heard and applied. In turn, the will is moved to respond in the obedience of faith. ‘If we do not get the right impression of the truth while hearing a sermon, we are not likely to receive it from the perusal of notes of the discourse afterwards.’

    Garretson, James M. Princeton and Preaching. ‘Sermon Preparation,’ 101.

  2. All these quotes from sinners reminds me of what the Bible says...

    Acts 13:42-44 – “42As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. 43Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. 44The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.”

    Acts 17:11 – “ 11Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

    Hebrews 12:20-29 - "For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned." 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear." 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." 27This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of things that are shaken--that is, things that have been made--in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire."

  3. I tend to be like the godly man in Acts who fell asleep during Paul's sermon. I just make sure I stay away from the windows.

    Maybe a primer on hearing/listening to sermons is in order.

    Walt Murray

  4. Walt: We just got a new book on that subject --in good Presbyterian fashion!!

    That said, I think it is part of the preacher's job to keep the Walts of the world awake.

    Barnes: You received it as what it was...not the word of man, but the Word of God!

  5. "I think it is part of the preacher's job to keep the Walts of the world awake."

    Yes, yes, yes! Sadly, some do not get this.

  6. Information (truth) and encounter is really a fundamental issue.

    In brief:

    First, you have Clark who would say that truth is encounter.

    Then you have Van Til who places a tiny separation between truth and encounter. Truth is not the same thing as encounter, but is very close to it, and points to it.

    Finally, you have the Neo-orthodox, for whom encounter is everything, and both truth and falsehood can point or lead to it.

    So, we have Lloyd-Jones writing: "Much more important than the words is the Spirit"

    A Clarkian would steadfastly deny this.

    A Van Tillian would accept it as is.

    While a Neo-orthodox would accept it and push it even farther.

    Anyway, I think that the Lloyd-Jones comment needs to be analyzed along these lines. (With apologies to Clarkians, Van Tillians, and the Neo-orthodox for any mischaracterizations.)

  7. Preaching (according to Lloyd Jones) is "Logic on fire." Good preaching is hard to find, but precious when found.

    It is no sin, Mr. Pierce, to be interesting!