After posting yesterday on revival, I received some helpful comments about revivalism. These reminded me of what William Still wrote in his autobiography as he moved away from revivalism to solid biblical teaching about Christ. His move created what might be thought of as a local revival, with far reaching effects. The way this revival came about is similar to what Tim Keller said at Oak Hill on “preaching to the heart” and this might be represented by a Venn diagram:
A – this is the category of preachers Keller describes as “stony”. Their preaching is true, sound, faithful, but dry and dusty as it fails to address the issues of the day. It engages largely with matters of theological nuance, doctrinal controversy or internal church affairs, all of which are questions the preacher brings to the text. It fails to address the life and faith or the hearer, including unbelievers, as the preacher does not meet with people outside the core of the church and so does not understand their questions, issues or anxieties.
B – this sort of preaching appears detached from the bible as it is apparently based on the knowledge of preacher. It catches the big picture of God’s work and promises in the bible in a relevant and applied manner, but does not show where God says it in the bible. It is text book stuff made real to the hearers but it could be preached with the bible closed.
C – this might be described as preaching which does not see the wood for the trees. It demonstrates detailed exegesis of a passage in the context of the big biblical storylines. The sermon risks lacking coherence with the rest of scripture, as the preacher has little knowledge of how the text in view fits with others passages within a systematic framework. For example, preachers with a poor systematic doctrine of justification by faith will tend to preach works-righteousness.
D – this is here and now preaching with a sketchy grasp of biblical history. Relevant, applied, true but with no real sense of direction, past, present or future.
E – the target for preachers. Preaching which is clearly derived from the bible, set within a proper doctrinal framework, applied as it addresses questions of the age in the vernacular and which gives the hearer a sense of place in God’s big picture.