SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 2011
RESUSCITATION OF THE CHURCH’S TEACHING AND PREACHING MINISTRY II
OLD TESTAMENT AND PREACHING
Again in terms of preaching in the Old Testament, the Hebrew prophets proclaimed the message of God under divine impulse and were said to be forerunners of the apostolic herald. Jonah was told to ‘preach’ and even Noah is designated a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2v5).
NEW TESTAMENT AND TEACHING
When we turn to the New Testament, Jesus was presented to us as a great teacher. He even taught as one with a great authority. Mk.1v21-22. Further passages on teaching: Mk. 4v1-20 note verse 2; Lk. 6v30-34 note verse 34; Mk. 8v31 taught that suffering was a divine necessity; Mtt. 5v1-11, the Beatitudes note verse 2; Mary of Magdala recognized him as Rabboni – Teacher: Jn. 20v16; taught in the synagogue Mk. 6v2; he taught also on prayer Lk. 11v1-4, Lk. 19v47, Acts 28:28, 30, 31 Paul taught from morning to evening, Acts 11v26… they assembled themselves with the church and taught much people etc.
Jesus had time to instruct, teach in order to help guide ethical conduct of believers and also prepare them for the life of the kingdom. It is amazing how Jesus taught the twelve he selected and through them, ‘they were able to turn the world upside down’
The apostles followed suit in Jesus’ teaching. To their credit Acts 2v42 says: ‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’. Teaching was recognized by the early church as essential to the spiritual growth and development by the individual believer. Good and godly teaching aggravates spiritual harvest. No wonder the early church swelled and God added to their number those who were being saved daily.
(1) Do pastors/ministers of today have enough time to disciple willing members of the congregation?
(2) What is taking the time of the ministers of religion? Note: they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.
NEW TESTAMENT AND PREACHING
Perhaps the most prominent feature in New Testament Preaching is the sense of divine compulsion. In Mk. 1:38 it is reported that Jesus did not return to those who sought his healing power but pressed on to other towns in order that he might preach there also ‘for that is why I came out’. It becomes crystal clear that those who are called of God today should make preaching part and parcel of their mission. Currently, there seems to be a lag and if nothing is done urgently, many souls will perish. I remember one of our Anglican Children Ministries (ACM) songs that say: ‘go ye into the world and preach to all the nation, bring them to the fold. This was Jesus call, but many, many people are not yet in the fold. The Lord is calling you to help bring them in…’
Peter and John reply to the restrictions of the Sanhedrin with the declaration, ‘we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’ Acts 4v20. ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel; cries the apostle Paul (I Cor. 9v16).
This sense of compulsion is the sine qua non of true preaching. Preaching is not the relaxed recital of morally neutral truths; it is God himself breaking in and confronting man with a demand for decision. This sort of preaching meets with opposition. In 2Cor.11v23-38, Paul lists his sufferings for the sake of the gospel.
Another feature of preaching was its transparency of message and motive. Since preaching calls for faith, it is vitally important that its issues not be obscured with eloquent wisdom and lofty words but sought to commend himself to every man’s conscience by the open statement of the truth (2Cor.4v2). The radical upheaval within the heart and consciousness of man which is the new birth does not come about by the persuasive influence of rhetoric but by the straight forward presentation of the gospel in all its simplicity and power.
How can God reveal himself in the present through an act of the past? The answer is, through preaching – for preaching is the timeless link between God’s redemptive act and man’s apprehension of it. It is the medium through which God contemporaries his historic self-disclosure in Christ and offers man the opportunity to respond in faith.
A MISSING LINK
The church started very well, having enjoyed apostolic succession. Quite true in this part of the world, those who saw and later succeeded the missionaries had a sustained missionary effort. Among some early converts, we can mention confidently Catechist Anyaegbuna, Holy Nweje, etc. They were spirit filled and focused and in their time gospel teaching and preaching flourished. People enjoyed ‘Chochi Eke’ and Abu 216 made more sense to them. Early converts taught in our infant schools knew how to read and write. Reading of the bible was intensified as part of liberating the souls of those who followed the light of the gospel. Ven. Umukoro was right when he noted thus in the Church Workers’ Manual ‘The early missionaries who brought Christianity to Nigeria, knew the value of teaching. After they have preached to our forefathers, those who repented were taught the ‘3Rs’ which are: – (1) Reading (2) Writing and (3) Arithmetic.
This exercise enabled all those who were serious in learning; either old or young, to read the Bible and write other texts that promote progressive learning. They also embarked on programmes for those who could not write or read fluently in English, either to translate the Bible, to be read in their own local language, or encourage them to learn both languages.
In pursuant of these programmes, Sunday Schools were established, both for children and adults, where alphabets, either, English or local languages were taught. This programme enabled many in the Church to know how to read and write; first, especially the Bible. This grew to a larger scale that schools were finally established. Today, both Christians and non-Christians enjoy educational facilities.
Unfortunately, this good thing of teaching which the Anglican Church started at first, is dying out of the Church; Pastors or workers have no time to teach, little or no attention is given to Sunday School teaching of the people, on how to read and write’.
To be continued.
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,