As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
There is “a real appetite for the Bible and for training to communicate it more effectively”, believes Peter Mead.
Many young Christian leaders in Europe have a real desire to preach biblically, but there is “lack of equipping and good modelling”, believes Bible teacher Peter Mead.
A recent study in Central and Eastern Europe confirmed this idea. There is a young generation of passionate people dedicated to bring the gospel of Christ to others, it said, but good training is much needed.
“Healthy churches will come when the preaching is health-giving and Christ-focused, and where the congregation are spilling over the love of Christ to one another”, Mead, a mentor at Cor Deo (UK), believes.
His passion is “equipping people to handle God’s Word, to contagiously communicate it to others, and to grow spiritually.”
Mead has authored several books and leads the Bible Teachers & Preachers Networks of the European Leadership Forum. He blogs at “Biblical Preaching”.
A selection of his articles will be published at Evangelical Focus. Mead shared his views in the following interview.
Question. Every Christian leader - from the theologically liberal to the conservative - would argue they preach from the Bible. So, how would you define “biblical preaching”?
Answer. I define biblical preaching as a combination of four required elements. There is a prayerful dependence on God to work in both the preacher and the listeners. There is a commitment to communicate the true and exact meaning of the text or texts being preached (which is very different than reading the texts and then giving our own message). There is a desire to communicate effectively. Finally there is also an effort to highlight how the meaning of the passage is relevant to the listeners.
When one of these four ingredients is missing, then I think we are not doing true biblical preaching. When someone claims to be doing biblical preaching, but isn’t, it is always because of a failure to include one of these four ingredients.
Q. From your experience training European Bible teachers, how do you see the situation of biblical preaching in the European evangelical churches? Is there a high view of expository preaching in the cases you know?
A. I have the privilege of getting to know a number of preachers from a variety of churches across the continent. However, I don’t think that puts me in a place to give an accurate evaluation of the thousands of churches from Cyprus to Iceland and everything in between!
What I hear from people is concern about the preaching in their own cultural contexts, as well as a real appetite for the Bible and for training to communicate it more effectively. My suspicion is that there is a lot of good intention, but a real lack of equipping and good modelling.
Q. What do Christians with a desire to grow in their relationship with Jesus value most of a Bible teacher/preacher?
I think it is a combination of seeing a genuine delight in Christ in the preacher/teacher, as well as being pointed to the wonder of who Christ is in the pages of the Bible. When a preacher loves Jesus and loves to help people see the God who reveals Himself in the Bible, then people tend to appreciate the ministry and thrive under it. I know for myself there have been key teachers/preachers who have stirred my heart by their communication of the Bible. There are other things that come into play too – people always say they value a sense of relevance in what they are hearing, good communication style always helps, increasingly people have a distaste for inauthenticity or a “pulpit persona” . . . lots could be said, but I think the love for Christ and His Word (and for the listener) is vital.
Q. What does a local church need to ‘add’ to the sermon of a Sunday worship service so that the gospel message really is digested and applied by its members during the week?
A. I think a healthy church will take more than a good sermon. It takes the deliberate creation of a culture within the church where people are motivated to be in the Bible for themselves, and to be applying the Bible in their lives.
They need to be around others that are spiritually hungry - which starts with the leaders but needs to be more than just “from the front”… being in a genuine community that loves Christ is priceless for bringing about true life change.
Q. How can we find a good balance between preaching and discipleship?
A. I don’t think they should be in tension. They need to work together. Good preaching, like good leadership, will create an environment where people can disciple one another.
Again, the leadership need to lead the way in discipling and being discipled, but it needs to become a pervasive concern of the whole congregation. Preaching can feed and resource and encourage that.
Healthy churches will come when the preaching is health-giving and Christ-focused, and where the congregation are spilling over the love of Christ to one another.
Q. Finally, do you have an opinion about the outcome of the EU referendum in the UK?
A. It has been a very significant few months in the UK with lots of strong opinions on all sides. My opinion on the outcome doesn’t matter. What matters now is that Christians in the UK, and in Europe, have an opportunity to show a different attitude to watching colleagues and neighbours. I have seen Christians panicking and fearing for the future as well as expressing strongly rebellious attitudes toward government.
My hope is that Christians will remember that our hope is not in politics, but in God, and that we will graciously demonstrate faith in uncertain times.