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Mark Thompson on Preaching and the Church

8 September, 2009

Mark Thompson is professor of theology at Moore College in Sydney, Australia. Here’s an excerpt from his recent paper at the Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference:

It was an extraordinary moment. The anticipation was palpable. The scroll had just been rolled up, handed back to the synagogue attendant and Jesus sat down. With all eyes upon him, he delivered an undeniably powerful address. The introduction alone was arresting. Only nine words as Luke records them: ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:21). Their wonder at his ‘gracious words’ would soon turn to outrage, though, as Jesus unfolded the implications of God’s revelation in the days of the prophets:

‘… there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zerephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed — only Naaman the Syrian’ (Luke 4:25-27).

There was no ambiguity, no grand rhetorical flourish which masked a lack of content or conviction. The message to those gathered that day was unmistakeable: their acceptance of him was merely superficial, after all, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown’. And the reaction of the hearers that day showed how right he was.

The public proclamation of the word of God has been characteristic of Christian gatherings from the very beginning and its roots go back further to the practice of the Jewish synagogues. Much of the theological legacy of the patristic period comes down to us in the form of sermons, and Christian history is studded with movements in which preaching has flourished after a period of decline. The medieval preaching of Bonaventure, Bernard of Clairvaux or the Lollards, the endowed preacherships of the early Reformation, Luther’s thundering from the Wittenberg pulpit, the rigour and yet pastoral sensitivity of the Puritans, Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards, Simeon, the great evangelistic missions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — the progress of the Christian gospel seems inextricable from the progress of Christian preaching.

Also, be sure to check out Mark’s excellent book, A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture (IVP, 2006).

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  1. 11 September, 2009 2:59 pm

    Thompson book on Scripture is a delight and a most needed remedy to the faith- withering books like those of Kenton Sparks and Peter Enns that seek to sow as much doubt as possible in the minds of their readers that the Bible is full of myths and legends. They constantly impugen Evangelical OT scholars like E.J.Young and Gleason Archer as retreatists who purposely avoided the real issues of OT critics.

  2. 11 September, 2009 6:16 pm

    Good stuff. Guess my good and noble wife needs to order me another book!

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