How attentive hearers assist loving preachers
Why do we find it easier to preach to eager hearers? We know from 2 Timothy 4:3,4 that often people will not endure healthy teaching. And it’s very hard to go on giving healthy teaching when people don’t want to hear it. But why is it hard? Is it just that we love the praise of men and we hope that their attentive listening during the preaching will translate into praise for us after the sermon? That would indeed be an ungodly motive. But that is not the only possible reason. In his wonderful little Treatise On the Catechising of the Uninstructed, Augustine says this:
A sense of weariness is … induced upon the speaker when he has a hearer who remains unmoved, either in that he is actually not stirred by any feeling, or in that he does not indicate by any motion of the body that he understands or that he is pleased with what is said. Not that it is a becoming disposition in us to be greedy of the praises of men, but that the things which we minister are of God; and the more we love those to whom we discourse, the more desirous are we that they should be pleased with the matters which are held forth for their salvation: so that if we do not succeed in this, we are pained, and we are weakened, and become broken-spirited in the midst of our course, as if we were wasting our efforts to no purpose.
We want our hearers to be instructed and moved by the gospel truths we preach, partly because we love them. We should pray that this motivation of love will sweep away the ungodly motive of wanting their praise.
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The King James Bible (2)
it is interesting to see the rules the translators of the King James Version were set. Here they are. Not all were followed particularly faithfully. Of particular interest is the political slant of rules such as number 3.
The Rules to be observed in the Translation of the Bible.
1. THE ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit.
2. The Names of the Prophets, and the Holy Writers, with the other Names of the Text, to be retained, as nigh as may be, accordingly as they were vulgarly used.
3. The old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c.
4. When a Word hath divers Significations; that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most of the Ancient Fathers, being agreeable to the Propriety of the Place, and the Analogy of the Faith.
5. The Divisions of the Chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if Necessity so require.
6. No Marginal Notes at all to be affixed, but only for the Explanation of the Hebrew or Greek Words, which cannot, without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be express’d in the Text.
7. Such Quotations of Places to marginally set down as shall serve for the fit Reference of one Scripture to another.
8. Every particular Man of each Company, to take the same Chapter, or Chapters, and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinketh good, all to meet together, confer what they have done, and agree for their Parts what shall stand.
9. As any one Company hath dispatched any one Book in this manner they shall send it to the rest, to be consider’d of seriously and judiciously, for His Majesty is very careful in this Point.
10. If any Company, upon the Review of the Book so sent, doubt or differ upon any Place, to send them Word thereof; note the Place, to send them Word thereof; note the Place and withal send the Reasons, to which if they consent not, the Difference to be compounded at the General Meeting, which is to be of the chief Persons of each Company, at the end of the Work.
11. When any Place of special Obscurity is doubted of, Letters to be directed, by Authority, to send to any Learned Man in the Land, for his Judgement of such a Place.
12. Letters to be sent from every Bishop to the rest of his Clergy, admonishing them of this Translation in hand; and to move and charge as many as being skilful in the Tongues; and having taken Pains in that kind, to send his particular Observations to the Company, either at Westminster, Cambridge or Oxford.
13. The directors in each Company, to be the Deans of Westminster and Chester for that Place; and the King’s Professors in the Hebrew or Greek in either University.
KJV colour (i.e. trivia)
If you're planning a talk on the King James Version or an evangelistic event like the one that Andy outlined yesterday, then it can be useful to have some trivia up your sleeve to lighten the load or illustrate things or just provide a little colour. Here are my top KJV trivia moments from David Daniell's The Bible in English.
- The 'Authorized Version' as it is sometimes known (AV) is not authorized at all. In fact, the only two English Bible versions to have this official title were the Great Bible from the time of King Henry and the Bishops Bible from the time of Queen Elizabeth. It's a title that was first used in the 19th Century (1824, according to the OED) as a way to give credibility to the KJV translation.
- The King (James I of England, James VI of Scotland) had nothing to do with the translation, as it sometimes apocryphally reported. He was a notable scholar in himself (he translated a metrical version of thirty of the psalms), but aside from 'keeping an eye' on the project, the translation was not his, just dedicated to him – hence its name.
- For some unknown reason, every Bible quote in the preface to the new KJV was taken from the Geneva Bible, not the KJV. Scholars have no idea why this is – the best guess is that the Geneva Bible was so ingrained in the public consciousness that no one noticed!
- Not all the language is archaic (though some, as Daniell explains, is deliberately so). The translators were not afraid to introduce relatively new words, such as 'contentment' and even to invent completely new words. The KJV is the first place the word 'amazement' (1 Peter 3.6) is ever used in print.
- Because of its age, some of the language can be a bit, well, earthy. Most of us would blush to read out the word that is used where modern translators would use the word urinate…I'll leave you to find the references, if you must.
- The KJV is essentially a revision of Tyndale shaped by other contemporary translations. Computer analysis has shown that 83% of the New Testament text and 76% of the Old Testament text is Tyndale's. That is remarkable given that Tyndale was a lone worker, essentially an outlaw, working over 100 years before the King James translators and with many, many fewer resources at his command.
Evangelistic ideas and celebrating the King James Version
Guest post from Andy Hambleton, Associate Minister at Duke Street Church Richmond
In order to tie in with the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the bible being published, we are planning to put on a series of events throughout 2011 which will aim to get people in our community thinking about and discussing the bible.
Currently, we are planning to hold three separate events, all coming from a slightly different angle. The first event will be from a historical perspective, at which a speaker will explain the story of the events leading up to the King James Version being authorised and published. The second event will be from a literary viewpoint, looking at the impact that the KJV has had upon the English language and English literature. There is an annual Literature Festival in Richmond, and so it is our hope that that this event can be included in the festivities. Finally, the third event will be a bit more hands on, as we plan to have an evening of readings and reflections from the King James Version. The aim with each of these three events is to get the bible into people’s hands, minds and conversations throughout this year and beyond.
Richmond itself is an area replete with active historical and arts societies, and so we see these types of events as a good way to engage with our community in a way which resonates with people’s interests, whilst at the same time offering an opportunity to look into the message of the scriptures.
Encouragement in tough pastorates
Here’s the last of my posts prompted by re-reading William Still’s The Work of the Pastor, at least for the moment. Writing to encourage a man in a possibly lonely and small pastorate, he writes,
Your quiet persistence – this charge, or parish, or living is not a mere stepping-stone to a better appointment: God has caused you to become pastor to some souls here who are as valuable to Him as any in the world – your quiet persistence will be a sign that you believe God has a purpose of grace for this people, and that this purpose of grace will be promoted, not by gimmicks, or stunts, or new ideas, but by the Word of God released in preaching by prayer. (my italics)
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Not strictly to do with preaching….but I came across this and found it interesting. This is a picture of a magic lantern being used to project hymn words in 1879 in Boston, USA. There's nothing new.
And my analysis, for what it's worth:
AGAINST: can't read ahead, words are often projected poorly so sentences are cut mid way, projectionist just can't keep up.
FOR: makes an incredible difference to singing and, with people looking up, makes singing congregational again.
As they say on Channel 4: you decide!
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You are not the Saviour of the World
When my wife Carolyn and I debrief at the end of a day, one of us often feels burdened by some painful pastoral situation in someone we love and for whom we care. And then the other says, “Remember, there is only one Saviour of the world; and it’s not you.”
It is a healthy reminder and perhaps especially for preachers. I came across this honest wisdom from William Still in The Work of the Pastor, speaking of how to deal with really hard cases: “Some meddling ministers want to sort out everybody. God is not so optimistic. There are some who will die mixed-up personalities, and they may be true believers. (In some ways perhaps I am that, and have no hope of ever sorting myself out. Indeed my salvation is to live with my oddities and partly put up with them…).”
So he says to ministers, “Don’t try to do the impossible … Know what God is about, especially in respect of your calling, and keep within it. Most people crack up because they try to do what God never intended them to do. They destroy themselves by sinful ambition, just as much as the drunkard and drug addict. Ambition drives them on.”
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Preachers in goatland
I have been re-reading parts of William Still’s classic The Work of the Pastor and came across this wonderfully robust exhortation to preachers to make sure they feed the sheep:
It is to feed sheep (on the Word of God) that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job…
The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness.
Keep standing, preacher
It's easy, when you're a Bible-believing, preaching-loving pastor to feel that you're one of a dying breed. Statistically, that may even be true. As a pastor, most of the nearest 10 church ministers to me probably thought I was a right wing nutter, even though I only believed what most of them had in their historic creeds. Under such pressure, it's easy to give in to the temptation to let things slip. After all, the accusation that you are 'isolationist' is a hard one to take, particularly when you value true gospel unity with a very high premium.
So, I was encouraged to look more closely this morning at Wickhams. Wickhams is a department store on the Whitechapel Road. It's now faded in its glory and the ground floor (somewhat inevitably) is a Tesco Metro. It is a microcosm of the East End's prosperity. Wickhams started as a little family business and grew and grew until it became 'The Harrods of the East' with food halls and departments galore. Now, it's faded and old, but the most eccentric thing about it remains. I wonder if you can spot it from the photo?
When it was built in 1927 the owners of one particular house refused to sell up. So the architects had to incorporate number 81 into the whole building. The department store is built around this one house. No doubt the residents and Wickham family put all sort of pressure on the householder. After all, it will appear so much more appealing to the outside world, wouldn't it? Perhaps, but the home owners were adamant. They cared more about their own house than how it appeared and weren't prepared to compromise. It was where their entire family had been born. It was precious (you can read more about it here if you're interested). They stood firm in other ways.
In a rather strange way, cycling past this testimony to steadfastness every morning makes me want to keep going, whatever those around may say.
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Simplicity and love in preaching
I have been reading Henry Chadwick’s biography of Augustine of Hippo, and was encouraged by a number of things. One was Chadwick’s observation that, ‘All the masterpieces on which later centuries looked back were without exception written during his busy life as bishop, not while he was a leisured young ‘don’.’ Let’s beware of the idea that long leisurely withdrawal from active pastoral work into the groves of academe is the ideal context for scholarship.
Another is Augustine’s splendidly clear attitude towards teaching the uneducated. Of whom there are plenty. Echoing 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, Augustine wrote to a friend, ‘Educated Christians like myself expect God’s grace to prefer people of greater natural ability, higher standards of behaviour, and superior education in the liberal arts. In fact God mocks my expectations.’
So how are we to preach and teach to ‘simpler’ people? Augustine wrote a short treatise ‘On Catechizing Simple (i.e. less educated) People’ in reply to this question from an intellectual deacon in Carthage. He gently chides his intellectual friend on feeling frustrated at having to teach below his natural level of sophistication. If we really love people for whom Christ died, he says, we will gladly sacrifice our own intellectual satisfaction for the sake of their understanding.
And in fact it will do us good, for just as when we show a visitor around a landscape with which we are over-familiar, we ourselves notice the beauty of it afresh, so when we teach Christian truths to others. In Augustine’s words, ‘Is it not a common occurrence with us, that when we show to persons, who have never seen them, certain spacious and beautiful tracts (i.e. views), either in cities or in fields, which we have been in the habit of passing by without any sense of pleasure, simply because we have become so accustomed to the sight of them, we find our own enjoyment renewed in their enjoyment of the novelty of the scene?’
Chadwick writes about Augustine’s attitude to the arts of oratory: ‘Ciceronian eloquence has three aims: to instruct, to please, to move, and has three styles for doing this – simple, or florid, or pathetic. The Christian orator alters the order of priorities; it is more important to instruct and to move, and only lastly to please. Elaborate language and convoluted sentences will defeat the object, and therefore a Christian teacher should use direct speech, and take the Bible as a model for form as well as the source of his content.’
And again, ‘In his own preaching Augustine … is careful to avoid long sermons with complex sentences. Nothing is said indirectly or ironically, or to entertain. His eyes are not on his script or notes if any, but on his hearer’s faces, and he is ready to stop or to shift the direction of his discourse immediately if he is losing their attention.’ ‘His directness to his flock is a consciously adopted simplicity which knows just what effect monosyllables may achieve.’
Let’s hear it for simple, loving, clear preaching and teaching.
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