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Conference focuses on tapping God's power in preaching
April 03, 2006
By David Roach
There are church buildings on virtually every street corner in America but few expository preachers. The remedy for this shortage is a generation of ministers who will proclaim the changeless truth of the Gospel to a culture that views nothing as changeless, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said at the annual Power in the Pulpit conference March 13 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"We are now in big trouble because as you look across this country, you can find on almost every block a church — that is, a building," said Mohler, president of Southern Seminary. "You can find bricks and stone, and you can find steeples and organs, and you can find pulpits and all the rest.
"But you do not find preaching — at least as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has understood preaching for nearly 20 centuries — in far too many of these churches. And I think it's because it's getting harder (to preach)."
Joining Mohler as keynote speakers were Hershael York, Lester Professor of Christian Preaching and associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern, and Robert Smith, professor of preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala. More than 200 pastors attended the event.
Preaching from James 5:7-8, Mohler urged preachers to have patience as they wait for their ministry to bear fruit in listeners' lives.
"The one thing we may forget that is indispensable to our preaching is patience," Mohler said. "And the one thing our people do not even know to expect as a matter of our preaching is patience."
Often preachers become frustrated because every sermon does not appear to change lives instantly, he said.
Biblical preaching is further complicated by the fact that postmodern Americans find it strange to take instruction for modern life out of an ancient book, Mohler said.
"We show up and say, 'This ancient book is going to tell us how to order our lives today. …' And that sounds extremely strange to a world that isn't ready to hear an authoritative word from an ancient source," he said.
But preachers must teach the Bible week-in and week-out because faithfulness to God's Word over time will yield eternal results, Mohler noted.
"Be strong," he said. "Be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. How long do we have to be patient? Until the Lord comes. But take heart. The Lord's coming is near."
York told conference attendees to preach faithfully even during life's most difficult times. Drawing on the example of Ezekiel, York said that effective ministers often learn to trust God through trials.
"It's easy to serve the God who will give you your best life now," he said. "That's the God we want. That's the God we create. That's not the God we serve. How do you serve a God who causes what you have always regarded as the worst-case scenario in your life?
"Dear brothers, I tell you, you've got to preach the Word even in the midst of your worst-case scenario."
During difficult times, the preacher should think about God's call on his life as motivation to continue proclaiming the Bible, York said.
"Commitment to preach really is a function of your calling," he said. "If you have a light regard for your calling, if you're not very certain that God's really called you, if you feel like you're just trying this out to see how it works, you will wash out at the first sign of trouble. If you have a light regard for your calling, you'll have a light regard for your preaching."