Does Preaching really matter?

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In the 1990s and early noughties Australian cricket was dominant. Depressingly aggressive, they would come over to England and their bowlers would rip into us, their batsman would knock us all over the park and England were often left a quivering wreck. It was quite similar in conservative evangelicalism. It was in the days when Moore college seemed to have Mighty Colossus in their ranks; there was the Briefing, St Matthias Media, Two ways to live. They were just irrepressible. If it wasn't Philip Jensen beating us up over being timid, it was his brother Peter (Merv Hughes and Shane Warne if you want to continue the analogy). There was Graeme Goldsworthy and his books (David Boon - solid, not exactly flamboyant).  Chappo, whom we all loved, was the sunniest of them all and brightened up our summer . However, as always, the cricket era came to an end. OK, they've won a couple of Ashes series since, but they don't strike fear into us like they used to. I would argue the same with the Anglican Sydney siders.

Why this has happened is interesting? There's something about Sydney evangelicals that makes them ''either or'' people. Sanctification is definitive and not progressive. Worship is all of life, not what you do in church. Church is local and gathered and pretty much nothing else.

I love St Helen's Bishopsgate. I am a big fan of lots of what they do and I even appeared in their 50th video singing their praises. I have valued their ministry hugely, but  recently St Helen's put up a video of John Woodhouse who was principal of Moore College until a couple of years ago. The series is ironically called Preaching Matters because as you watch John Woodhouse you realise he doesn't think Preaching Matters.
He wants to flatline all word ministry so what we do in a One to One Bible study and small group is no different to the Preaching of the Word to a congregation apart from that it's to a big group. I completely agree with Woodhouse's emphasis on word ministry; we want to have as many Bible handlers, Bible readers, Bible students as we possibly can who proclaim Christ. But he seems to take no note of the link between 'the Man of God' in the New Testament epistles and Old Testament Prophet, the declarative nature of what preaching is in the book of Acts, the effect of preaching in Scripture, 2000 years of church history and the Reformed confessions. I am tempted to say as Stott famously said to Lloyd Jones on that fateful night in 1966 ' I believe history is against you.. and scripture is against you'.

Woodhouse does have form on this sort of thing. He wrote two remarkable essays on the sacraments about 15 years ago in which he basically pronounced that me having bacon and egg roll with my elders is us having the Lord's Supper together. I suspect with Gathered Worship having been given a going over, preaching now being lessened, the sacraments will be due for the same treatment soon.
What is interesting and why I think that Woodhouse material is so alarming on preaching is that there is now huge debate in Sydney over women preaching. That is not unconnected with Woodhouse's views on preaching. John Dickson has written material on why women should be allowed to preach in a congregation. There has been great comeback from people in the Sydney diocese on it but the logical conclusion to Woodhouse stance is if there is no real difference between one to one's, small groups and preaching, why not let her voice be heard?
When you downplay worship, the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, it's a dangerous game to play.

Paul Levy is looking forward to receiving all bookings from Australia

Posted September 9, 2014 @ 4:12 PM by Paul Levy

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