By Paul Koch –
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
What does this mean? Answer:
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
Last week the Cantankerous Critic posted a challenging piece on the reality and role of fear in our lives. I have been thinking quite a lot about his words, especially as they apply to the preachers craft. When theology reaches its goal in proclamation what role, if any, does fear play? For I believe that fear is a crippling force at work in the church’s mission. More pointedly I believe that it is fear that corrupts the work of preaching. In his article Scott states this:
“The Law not only accuses, it produces fear and convinces us that fear is our primary concern. Why do we as Christians still operate out of fear when we have the promise of freedom from the Law, freedom from fear, won for us by Christ?”
So on a Sunday morning we have a group of Christians who tend to operate out of fear gathering together seemingly ignorant of their freedom. More likely they have been so beat down by Satan and our world that they are doubting the freedom that is already theirs. But there is good news, for a pastor steps before them and for a moment everyone waits with baited breath concerning what will come next. What role will fear play in the words that come from his mouth?
Will they be bold and radical words? Will they not only describe the freedom Christ has secured for but actually dare to set them free in that moment? Or will the words seek to give the hearers coping mechanisms and strategies for getting past the fears of day to day life? Will it be a cutting down and binding up, or a history lesson or well articulated Bible study?
The path that the preacher takes will depend greatly upon his own fear.
If he fears the critics and naysayers, if he fears how a certain proclamation might affect the numbers in the pews or the stated vision of the particular congregation then certainly his words will reflect such fears – and so you might expect a certain type of sermon. But far worse is the fear that he doesn’t have the right or the authority to proclaim Christ in the first place! It is safer then to speak about him or do a Bible study from the pulpit on his words than to actually speak for him.
Proper proclamation then begins with proper fear. To be freed in Christ from the demands of the Law and the accusations of the Evil One means that we are free to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” If the preachers of the church are to be of any use to a people captivated and driven by fear then they must trust not in their own ability, or creativity, or knowledge or fear their lack of them; but only fear, love, and trust in the One who sent them. The ministry of the Word can have only one fear!