The Bible --Part 18

The Bible
Part 18

James Gunn

Thy Words were found and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. Jeremiah 15:16

Temporary Oral And Written Ministry

Contemporary oral and written ministry is a ministry of the Word of God that is relevant to the times, conditions, and people. It involves an understanding of current conditions, the needs of different persons and congregations, and a knowledge of the methods for the best presentation of high quality ministry, both oral and written.

The Word of God is always contemporary; it is never out of date, but the methods of delivering ministry must be constantly revised in order that they never be out of date, old fashioned. The divine message must never be changed, but the procedure of human communication should always be changed to meet the contemporary needs.

Current Conditions

We read of men of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). These were men of sagacity who could discern contemporary conditions, and direct their fellow citizens in what best should be done. Obviously, the characteristics of one decade are not the same as the characteristics of another. God has ministry for each different time and condition. We need, therefore, men of wisdom to discern the time, the need and the type of ministry.

God gave special ministry through Noah to the antideluvian people. He gave ministry through Moses to meet the need of Israel before, during and after the Exodus. He gave ministry through Samuel to meet Israel’s need in the days of Saul, and ministry through John the Baptist in preparation for the manifestation of Christ. The ministry of Paul and the other apostles was in regard to the founding of the Christian Church. God definitely has a ministry peculiarly for the last days, the prelude to apostasy.

In order to meet the need of conditions present in the world and in the Church, we must be aware of these. This awareness, generally speaking, results from a comparison of biblical knowledge with present happenings. The Apostle Paul wrote for conditions present in his own day (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

Personal Needs

Some persons are more suseptible to certain varieties of ministry than are others. This is not true only of individuals but also of congregations. In the matter of adequate preaching and teaching, it is necessary to know the people as well as to know the times.

In listing the major gifts in Ephesians 4:11, the Spirit of God links together the appellations pastors and teachers suggesting that these may be combined in one person. These two gifts provide the ability to appraise the need, the pastor; and the ability to meet the need, the teacher. The pastor as he shepherds the sheep diagnosis their state, and the teacher in his ministry prescribes the cure.

It is difficult, because of the time element, for a visiting brother to properly diagnose the condition of any congregation in order that through ministry he may meet the need. It is, therefore, imperative that there be close collaboration between the elders of the church and the visiting teacher.

There are Bible teachers who object to having subjects assigned for ministry. All should remember that the local elders are in a position to know the spiritual condition of their church better than any visitor, no matter how talented he may be.

It was the report by men from Corinth (Those of the household of Chloe) that prompted Paul to write the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:11). It was the report by Titus that resulted in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:5-8). Furthermore, it was the report by Timothy that caused Paul to write 1 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 3:5-10). First hand knowledge of the spiritual state of a congregation is helpful in the preparation of relevant ministry.

Oral Ministry

In regard to oral ministry, the public preaching and teaching of the Word of God, there are two salient matters that should be discussed, different methods for the delivery of a message and proved practices in the delivery of a message.

Methods of delivery: There are at least four different methods by which a sermon may be delivered to an audience:

First; the reading of a manuscript. There have been some mighty men of God who have won many souls for the Saviour who wrote out and then read their sermons verbatim. These sermons had been prepared in great detail and were then read with force and inflections of the voice. This method requires much study and care, but it results in accuracy of statement and excellency of language. If not used wisely it lacks warmth and zeal.

Second; the reciting of a sermon. This method involves careful preparation of the material, meticulous writing of the sermon and then word perfect memorization of the complete manuscript. This method like that of reading has some disadvantages; it lacks warmth and enthusiasm, and lacks the flexibility necessary to be under the full control of the Holy Spirit at the time of presenting the message.

Third; speaking the message after proper preparation. Of the various methods of sermon delivery, this method apparently has the largest acceptance among preachers. It is used in a number of different forms. As suggested by the name, this method requires careful and prayerful preparation, but it does not require a verbatim writing of the entire sermon. Generally, the sermon is prepared only in outline. The divisions, subdivisions, sections and subsections are all memorized in logical sequence.

One variation of this method is to write out the opening paragraph or two and memorize these. This gives a measure of confidence and helps to get off to a smooth start. It may be compared to the aeroplane moving down the runway before finally taking off.

Another variation is to write out and memorize the concluding paragraphs in order to assure a forceful yet gracious close to the sermon.

Fourth; speaking extemporaneously. It is good for all public speakers to preach occasionally extemporaneously, but to adopt this as the usual way of presenting a message is not recommended. This method frequently arises from indolence and results in many inaccuracies. When persisted in, it develops into a monotony of treatment and language.

All in all, it appears that speaking with due preparation is to be recommended as the most natural and beneficial method.

Proved practices: These cover a number of important items that every preacher and teacher of the Bible ought to know.

First, the use of notes. Whether or not notes should be used during the delivery of the sermon is still a much debated point. That notes be prepared is highly recommended, and that they be memorized as an outline is also recommended, but their use during delivery must be left to individual requirement.

Some find that to have their notes in their pocket so that they might be consulted if necessary at the last minute gives a feeling of confidence.

If notes are being used during delivery of the sermon, this should be done quietly but not hypocritically. There need be no embarrassment about using notes, as long as this is done without pretence.

Second, the use of humour. Sometimes quiet humour will fasten a point upon the memory, but a word of caution might be appropriate here; when preaching or ministering the Word of God, use humour sparingly lest you stumble a soul and do injury instead of good.

Third, vocalization. The human voice is a remarkable instrument, and to use it effectively is a great achievement. One thing is certain, it cannot be used in a better service that in glorifying its Creator. There are three salient points to be considered in the use of the human voice in preaching: pitch, volume, and penetration. The pitch of the voice is not a fixed quality; it may be raised or lowered some extent according to will. It seems that when we are nervous and excited the pitch of the voice is raised. We need to be careful of this, especially when we are just beginning to speak. It is always best to start to speak slowly in a low voice.

The volume of the voice is readily controlled. It has been suggested that when we begin to speak we keep our eyes upon the eldest person seated at the rear of the auditorium, and carefully watch his facial reactions. From these we can usually make the necessary vocal adjustments. If it is obvious that he has some difficulty in hearing us, then we must raise our voice. Generally there is no need of shouting. It is usually conceded that a conversational type of delivery is by far the most effective.

Fourth, the use of the public address system. The volume of the voice is controlled by such apparatus, therefore any anxiety over the volume of the voice may be dismissed. One or two recommendations should be made as to the use of this kind of equipment If the microphone is fixed, the speaker should always stand immediately in front of it; to move too far back or from one side to another impairs the usefulness of the whole system. If a lapel microphone is used, be sure that it is firmly fastened in place, otherwise it may fall and be broken. Never, no never, clap your hands immediately in front of a microphone.

Fifth, penetration. The deep penetration of the human voice calls for some remarks. Without either raising the pitch or increasing the volume, we can make ourselves heard for long distances by careful pronunciation and by a deliberate directing of the voice. It is actually possible to throw the voice toward some person at a distance.

Sixth, posture. When speaking we should stand erect yet relaxed, with our feet about twelve inches apart, and our hands by our sides. We should not lean upon the desk nor grip the edges of it as if we felt like Joab when about to die. He clung to the horns of the altar. Our faces should be held normally; they should be radiant because we are the representatives of the Lord Jesus. Our eyes should be directed toward the audience. We should not drop our heads and speak into our breasts.

“Did you hear our speaker tonight?” A visitor was asked at the close of a gospel meeting. “No,” he replied sarcastically, “I am not his breast bone.”

A well prepared sermon merits proper delivery and we should do all possible to make it acceptable to our audience.

Seventh, gesticulation. Someone has said, “Get ablaze and the world will turn out to see you burning.” In which case you will use gesticulations in your preaching for fire has the habit of throwing its arms about.

Gestures are important in many circumstances. The movements of the face and hands as well as the whole body can add impact to any message. When a father of even a little child frowns and places his forefinger over his lips, the child knows that it should stop talking. When an irritated manager points to the office door without saying a word, his subordinate realizes that his audience with his superior is ended.

A study of the facial expressions and the movements of the hands of the conductor of an orchestra shows the great importance of gestures in public speaking.

There are three or four simple rules governing the use of gestures. A gesture should be suggestive, not imitative. A missionary home on furlough while giving a talk so imitated the ways of the natives among whom he was working that his report became an entertainment in dramatics. The young people laughed heartily but the older ones were annoyed. The result of the meeting was that nothing of the report was remembered, but the dramatics of the missionary formed the topic of many conversations.

Gestures may be used to give emphasis. In that case let the gestures be forceful but quiet; nothing is accomplished by banging the Bible and thumping the desk.

Gestures may be used to avoid monotony; they add visual assistance to the preaching.

Here another word of caution is necessary. Gestures should not be over used. They should be the rhythmic movements of one eager to make himself understood. There is little value in swinging the arms about like a windmill. Such extremes detract from the message and distract the audience. We need some gracious servants to make a deliberate attack upon all windmill preachers.