As we Cornhill staff listen to students giving practice sermons and talks and then lead the subsequent discussion time, I've noticed an occasional phenomenon. It goes like this: • Leader: “Explain the logic and flow of that passage to us as clearly as you can.” • (Student does so, and does it quite well.) • Leader: “Good. But that wasn’t the central message of your sermon. Why not?” • Student: “Well, I just didn’t know how to preach that.” One very honest student (whose permission I have for this) was recently preaching to us on the second half of Isaiah ch.1. I, along with some others in the group, felt that he’d missed the crucial logic at work in vs.21-26. In that section, Jerusalem moves from being indicted by God as a ‘prostitute’ inhabited by murderers (v.21) to being called ‘the city of righteousness, the faithful city’ (v.25). And Isaiah tells us how this dramatic shift is going to occur: God will turn his hand in judgement against his enemy Jerusalem (vs.24-25a - which is no surprise), and in doing so will not sweep Jerusalem away but in fact will remove all her impurities (v.25 - which is a big surprise: here is divine judgement that does not destroy but purifies). So we asked the student: “If that’s the core of the passage - judgement from God on his people that purifies - why did you preach about forgiveness, which is a rather different topic? What went wrong in your prep that led you to miss the key thing?” To which he replied, with refreshing openness: “I didn't miss it. I did notice it. But I just didn’t have a category for it.” I think that’s a perceptive comment. A preacher who knows he must study Scripture carefully will often spot the core message of a passage accurately. But that’s not enough for preaching. He needs to have the necessary biblical/theological grids and frameworks in place which allow him to make sense of what he’s seen in the text, to know how to relate it to Christ and to his people, and therefore how to preach and apply it with faithfulness and power. If my core understanding of Christ’s saving work defaults constantly to justification and forgiveness as my only controlling categories, then although I may still notice when Scripture says something else about salvation (as Isaiah 1.21-26 does), I’m probably not going to know how to make sense of it, preach it or apply it. As Mr Spock used to say, I may see the data in front of me, but it just won’t compute, Captain. Further on this to come...
So, the Archbishop has doubts. I think it's a brave thing to be honest about and a bit more honesty about struggles, appropriately expressed, would be no bad thing in our circles. But I wonder sometimes, if pastorally we need to change the record? What do I mean? After the events in Paris, we held a special service and I preached on Luke 13. We thought that was the appropriate response, especially in our multi-cultural setting with quite a few French people and French speakers. During the service we had an extended prayer time. And some people were expressing WHY questions. That's what you'd expect, and it's OK to ask God that. After all, it's a common theme in the psalms. But there's a sense in which that question is actually answered in the New Testament. Although we can't specificise about every situation, we do know that Romns 8.28 AND 29 (note both verses) holds true. There is a sense, then (and I don't mean to be trite about this) where the answer to the WHY question is always "because he's conforming us to the image of his Son." Now, I fully realise that such an answer might seem glib and insensitive - especially to those in the midst of real struggles. But pastorally, we need to train ourselves and our people to be asking a different question. Perhaps not "instead of", but at least "as well as." That question is not WHY, but HOW? How is God conforming me to the image of his Son. What is he doing, right at this moment, to make that a reality? I think it is only then that we can fully embrace what James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Like Jesus, in other words.
Day rate £50
3 days £115
Student day rate £25
Student 3 days £60
Tuesday 21st June 2016 –
Thursday 23rd June 2016
Speakers will include Jonty Allcock, Don Carson, Simon Manchester, Vaughan Roberts, Dan Steel and Robin Weekes.
PT Cornhill London Week 2015
Thursday 17th December 2015 –
Monday 21st December 2015
PT Cornhill London week is for UK-based undergraduate students. You will be placed with a ministry family in London, living and serving with them in the busy lead-up to Christmas. This is an opportunity to experience ministry first-hand. Each weekday morning is spent at our central London offices where there will be time to reflect on what you’re learning, to discuss the practical implications and to be taught by Cornhill staff and other London-based ministers.
Started in 1991, PT Cornhill exists primarily to train preachers, as well as equipping men and women to teach the Bible in other contexts, such as youth/children's work and women's ministry. Click here for more details
We're gradually adding material from our archive. EMA 1993 featured Dick Lucas, Phillip Jensen, Don Carson, David Petersen and John Lennox for a mix of inspiring teaching, challenging exhortation and encouraging reports of gospel work. (Click the title, left, for the talks)