Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When words fail

AS 1 Samuel 3:19 Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail.

One of our professors used to make a funny but true statement at school. Whenever as a class we would struggle to come up with a natural interpretation of what a text meant and try to be deep or manufacture the meaning of a given passage. He would stand in front of the class, hold up His bible and as if talking to little children say to us “Guys, this is simple. God wrote a book. And He chose to use human language. He did not use bird language or fish language.” 

As simple as that may sound, that statement has huge implications for how we approach ministry. As I think about Township Reformation I’m reminded of a recent meeting I had with a pastor from a village in Swaziland. His approach to the bible is typical of what has become normal in our Townships. The Bible is a tool that people use to say what they want to say. The general feeling is that “God reveals something to me in private and the bible must line up with what God has showed me.”  We laboured with Him for 4 hours on the issue of spiritual warfare. We tried to get Him to read the actual words of the text. He would read the words but then give a different interpretation to what the words are saying. At some point in the conversation it became clear that there is another authority that governs Him besides the Bible. Although many Churches in the Township boast that they are Bible Preaching Churches. Upon close scrutiny to what is preached on a weekly basis, one concludes that it is not the Bible that is being preached but people’s opinions, psychology, self-help theology and private revelations. Biblical Preaching has become so light in our Townships that words don’t mean anything anymore. The situation is so typical. After a couple of minutes in the sermon, the pastor will build His case, the congregation will respond with loud “Amen’s”, and after heightened emotional ecstasy the pastor will tell how he feels that someone’s blessing is coming or some other prediction regarding what he feels God is revealing to Him. A man can stand on the pulpit and throw words around whilst people say “Amen” to that but nothing actually changes in people’s lives. The congregation goes home, and come back the following week and hears the same rhetoric. You would think someone would call a time-out and be shocked that a man who stands on behalf of God on the pulpit has made a statement that claims divine authority but nobody saw its fulfillment. But unfortunately people come again the following week and the show continues.  

History shows us that preceding every great revival was the true preaching of God’s word. If we are serious about Township Reformation then it is inevitable that we have to be serious about the true preaching of God’s word .As my Professor said that “God wrote a book.” He used subjects. He used verbs. He used objects and clauses to communicate truth to us. Any preaching of God’s word that does not take seriously first and foremost the basic building block of language (words) presumes on God. It makes God seem as if He was confused or did not really intend to say what He said in the book. I am aware that it will take some time for our people to get used to logical, systematic study and preaching of God’s word because of our cultural backgrounds. But anything that we use to shortcut that process will also shortcut what God meant to say to us. If there is one doctrine that we must hammer on in our Townships, it is the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture. Let’s bring back the Book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Written by Sibusiso Mlotshwa