EFAC Australia

Spring 2020


One way to open ourselves afresh to the word of grace.
Read books on spiritual formation and you will be hard pressed to find any that list listening to the preaching of God's Word as a first-order spiritual discipline. It may be mentioned under the broader category of reading and studying the Bible. But listening to preaching deserves attention of its own.
This was clearly a crucial dimension of the early church's life-"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). Certainly the leaders of the Reformation felt that way. They placed primary attention on public teaching and preaching. Karl Barth, writing to the well-educated West, regarded the proclamation of the Word as one of the three fundamental ways that people experience the life-changing Word of God.
In addition to biblical and theological aspects, we might consider some practical aspects of preaching-particularly expository preaching, preaching that strives to convey the meaning of biblical truth-that can help us see it as a vital spiritual discipline that humbly grounds us in the work and Word of God:

Micah is the flavour of the month for Old Testament prophets. His name has been catapulted onto the public stage through the Micah Challenge, and the associated Make Poverty History campaign. But does Micah simply tell us to "make poverty history"? Is this his only message: "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God" (6:8)? Is there more to the prophet Micah?

Micah Then

Micah was writing to the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (1:1) which places him somewhere between 750-686BC. This period was a time of great affluence in Judah and the lure of wealth and power led to sins of corruption and idolatry. We see these sins among the people of God, germinating in the fertile ground of wealth and prosperity, growing up into their day to day dealings, into business, leadership and religion. Micah speaks strong words of judgement against these sins. He denounces the idolaters, the wealthy landowning classes who oppress the poor and marginalised, the civic and spiritual leaders who take the law into their own hands, and informs them of the coming judgement of God.

But the book is not all judgement. The fabric of the book is also woven with a strong message of redemption for the faithful. These signs of hope in the God of the covenant intersperse the messages of condemnation against sin. There is a vision of the renewed Jerusalem as the sign of hope and restoration beyond the exile. There is the promise of the ruler who will be born in Bethlehem of Ephrathah. There is the wonderful note of forgiveness and mercy that rings in the readers' ears as the book draws to a close.

A psychologist friend of mine once told me, mid-conversation, that the ‘mmmmm-ing’ I was emitting and the ‘mmmmm-ing’ she was reciprocating with actually had official psycho-babble (my term, not hers) names: they were minimal encouragers.

Minimal encouragers, I thought, that makes sense. You know how it goes: a parishioner needs a pastoral chat, a co-raconteur is regaling you with a tall tale, a colleague is offering up their latest evangelistic idea, and you find yourself ‘mmmmm-ing’. Perhaps without knowing it, you’re urging them on to tell you more, anticipating the next nugget of news, humouring them so that silence won’t discourage them, agreeing with the overall sentiment of what’s being said (or, at the very least, agreeing that they agree with the overall sentiment of what’s being said).

And it’s not just the one-to-one, in-the-flesh conversations in which the minimal encourager makes its presence felt. Think of the multitudinous phone calls you make to various agencies and companies that require a transaction of information. If we haven’t given, we’ve certainly gotten.

Finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible
Part Two – 2 Corinthians

In Part One, I tried to show the general principles and practice of finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible. In Part Two, I will show how this applies to a difficult example, that of 2 Corinthians.

There are two preliminary questions that need to be answered when tackling 2 Corinthians.

a. Are 1 and 2 Corinthians one unit of meaning, and so mutually explanatory?
Traditionally these two letters have been regarded as one unit, in that it has been assumed that they both tackle the same issues, that they refer to each other, and that 2 Corinthians flows on naturally from 1 Corinthians.

Charles Perry was the first Bishop of Melbourne, consecrated on St Peter’s Day 1847. He arrived in Melbourne on 24 January 1848, the first, and until Barker’s arrival in Sydney, the only evangelical bishop in Australia. Perry delivered his first sermon in the new Diocese in St James’ Church on the 28th.

Perry was a definite and committed evangelical, and this sermon sets out his programme and priorities for ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Today, more than 150 years later, it still resounds with evangelical fervour, biblical clarity and humble devotion to the Lord.

Although based, as sermons typically were in that time, on one verse the entire sermon is steeped in Scripture. There are no less than 20 different scriptures cited from both Old and New Testaments and numerous other allusions besides. Phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are not so much quoted, but woven into his sentences. His verse was 2 Corinthians 5:20 -
‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’

Finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible - Part One

by Peter Adam


We should always try to find the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible. The central ministry purpose of the book is its ministry aim, its pastoral intention. It is the answer to the question that we could ask of the author of the book 'In one sentence, why did you write this book?' Or the answer to the question we could ask of God 'Why did you cause this book to be written?' It should include what the readers should do, and why they should do it. It regards the book as an extended speech-act, and seeks to clarify what the author wants to happen as the result of people reading the book. The central ministry purpose is more than the central theme, because it includes what the author wants the readers to do as a result of that central theme. It does not focus on topics, but on actions. It is not the language of analysis, but of action.

Here are some examples of 'central ministry purpose':