The ministry of the word is [only] an ‘and’…
Last week I was at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly, organised by the Proclamation Trust and hosted by St Helens’, Bishopsgate.
In the past, the suggestion has been made that, for all its excellencies, the PT may be a little unbalanced. In particular, that it may effectively downplay the work of the Spirit, and the need of the Spirit in powerful (that is, effective) preaching.
If that’s ever been the case, every effort was made this year to correct it. I hope to blog on it later this week – but it’s only a hope: having been away three full days last week, there’s a fair bit to catch up on this week. And after this week, a report on the EMA will be less relevant.
One innovation (new to me, but I haven’t been for a few years, so it may not be new this year) was a booklet called ‘Resource Guide’ that had a number of helpful articles in it – including one by Stuart Olyott called ‘The ministry of the word is an and’; this is an extract from that. If I can get permission, I’ll post the whole article. Meanwhile, here’s the flavour.
The apostles were as dependent on prayer as any other preachers. They understood that it is better to default on every other responsibility than it is to neglect prayer. It even takes precedence over the ministry of the Word. Compared with prayer, preaching is only an ‘and’. It must never take first place. Prayer recognises God as God, and depends on Him to do what He would not do without prayer. Prayer, and prayer alone, is the way by which the Lord’s armies call Him onto the field.
True prayer stirs itself up to lay hold on God (Isaiah 64:7). This takes time, energy, faith and perseverance. It is easy to allow other things to slip in and get in the way. It is not only sinful or questionable things that provide such hindrances, but also things that are right and necessary which have been given a wrong priority. The servant of God gets sidetracked. The door to the secret place is not shut (Matt. 6:6). The preacher gets caught up in his exegesis and preparation, his administration, his commitments, the needs around him, or in the actual act of preaching. He no longer knows what it is to wrestle with God and to prevail (Gen 32:28).