Often, we tend to describe our preaching and church ministry as 'Bible-based.' That sounds worthy and noble. What more could you want when looking for a church or hope for when leading one? But are things quite that simple? A few years ago now we published a book of addresses from past EMAs including contributions from Sinclair Ferguson, Melvin Tinker, Johnny Prime and Mr Jackman. David's address was on just this subject and I was rereading it today. He argues that it is possible to be bible-based but not biblical. This is because it is possible to read the Bible and look at the Bible without listening to the Bible. Therein lies the difference. And the danger for every evangelical. David describes the potential for movement:
We can shift from being governed by Scripture in the contents and methods of ministry, to regarding the Bible as a possessions over which we have control, a source book that acts as a springboard for our more 'relevant' approach. In the end, what happens in the church is that we start to domesticate God's word, we tame it to suit our pulpit purposes. Evangelicals often talk about having a Bible based ministry, but from that base they can safely travel over the hills and far away! What we should be concerned for is a thoroughly biblical ministry, seeking for ourselves and for our churches to have what was memorably said of John Bunyan: that he had bibline blood. In order to avoid this situation, preachers need to maintain confidence in the word of God that is preached and in the preaching of the word of God. We need to regain certain inescapable priorities, not just an intellectual position, but as a bloodstream of our ministry.
And surely, we must never think 'that could never happen to me...' The road is littered with good evangelicals who seem to have lost their way. That's why the EMA is so important to us. One of its functions, at least, is to maintain the inescapably priority of preaching in the bloodstream of our ministry. It's been great to see guys booking on for the EMA who have not been for a few years. Whether you're a regular or not, do come and join us. We need one another to maintain these priorities.