Wednesday, 30 May 2012

What's the GDP of Preaching?

That was an excellent, lovely, interesting, challenging....sermon. Is that it? Is that all it's about? You spend hours and days on one sermon and all you get is some adjectives. Gross domestic product (GDP), refers to the market value of all officially recognised final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. Of all "goods and services" produced in a church in a given period, what is the "value" we place on preaching? Try asking those members of the congregation who throw in those adjectives to describe which part of the preaching they find excellent, lovely, interesting and challenging and they will struggle.

Take a particular Sunday worship experience. Which aspects of the worship do you think will be much talked about in hours or few days time? Unless the preaching was really very bad, or something very controversial was said, chances are that the preaching would soon be forgotten. It is not easy to place a value on preaching. The end product of the preaching is not always easy to see. The word of God is sharper than any double -edged sword,  which penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, but we aren't going to see any blood pouring out of any one when the Word of God is preached. If you can't see the end product how are you going to place a value on it?

On the contrary, the end products of other aspects of church life such as the music, healing, children/ youth work, and other mission work are are easy to see and can be valued. For instance some people might be attracted to your church because of your style of music. Some might come because of your healing ministry. Some might come because of your children/ youth ministry. Others might still come because of your mission work in the community or abroad. Very rarely would you hear people say I have come because of your preaching.

I am wondering whether the somewhat lack of real product of preaching has compelled some churches/Ministers to diversify to engage in all sorts of mission work just to make themselves fell popular and important. Many churches have now moved from their primary product which is preaching the Word into other sectors. Many churches are now investing time and energy in things such as the music, book sale, healing service and other voluntary works. Those Pastor/Ministers with no "add ons" are some how marginalised.

I know church's business is not only to prepare people to be exported to heaven. The socio-economic well being of people while on earth are equally important. However, the rate of diversification should be kept in check in order not to lose our primary objective which is to preach the Word. We can sing and dance to the fantastic music and do all the voluntary works in the community but if the Word is lacking, we would become empty barrels- only making the loudest noise.

In our efforts to diversify let us not forget the primary objective of church. Some resources should be kept to strengthen and boost the primary objective which is to preach the Word. In effect when the Word is rightly preached all other things shall be added unto thee. As a Pastor or a Minister what is your work ratio to preaching the Word. Are you over- burdened with other mission work? Think about your call into the ministry. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Being Fruitful

Few of my friends have suggested that I haven't been much "fruitful" in life. And they say part of the reason is that I have been too "abiding" in my Christian life. They suggest that I step out of my Christian box and try something different. Any time I have heard that I have laughed. They have no idea that any time I have tried any of the ideas they have suggested it has turned to be disaster after disaster. God has let me ran off the rail few times but have quickly ran back. I guess the message God is sending out to me is you run from me at your own peril; you can do nothing without me. When you are not part of the vine you have the liberty to do whatever you like. Once on board the vine, leaving it has a dire consequences either immediate or in the future.

 In the village where I grew up it's common for people of certain age to sense that their time of departure is approaching. When they realise that time is near they will summon all their love ones near and far to a meeting. In the meeting they will tell their love ones how they should live their lives once they are gone. I guess similar to that is what Christ had in mind when he called his disciples together and told them about The Vine and the Branches. Christ told the disciples how to live once he is physically away from them. The aim of the of the passage is more fruit for God's glory, and the path to that fruit-bearing is on abiding in Christ, and his word abiding in us. And prayer, according to verse 7, is an important ingredient of that abiding in Christ and having his word abiding in us.

Once you have decided to have relationship with Christ you must be prepared for some pruning exercise. Not long ago while walking with my wife on the street we came across some men cutting down some branches of the trees on the road side. I asked my wife why they had to do that since the branches looked fine to me. My wife just pointed to the writings on the packed vans. Tree surgeons were the writings. Her point was that if those people are surgeons then they are expert. They know what they are doing. Who could be more expert than God?.  Sometimes by our human eyes we see nothing wrong with some idea, habit or project but God does. Sometimes we seek immediate growth but God seeks growth in the future. So whiles we may be disappointed for not getting the 6 figure salary job, all that could be God's way of pruning.

Fruit bearing is an important task expected of every Christian and the most surest way of bearing fruit is to undergo pruning. Of course pruning is an expensive and painful task yet once it's done, you are sure of getting some fruits back. God has no desire to hurt us. He only wants the best from us and for us.

Pruning doesn't have to be God's exclusive right. We all can learn and participate in the pruning exercise. In times of austerity, governments and organisations are cutting down things which hinders growth. For a church to grow it must seriously engage in pruning of its activities.Are there some church activities we must stop, to make time for others which might yield fruits? As individuals we must be able to rid ourselves of unnecessarily habits, lifestyles and activities which hinders growth. We can't be expert as God when it comes to pruning but at least we try. Now could be the best time to start pruning.