Friday, 1 January 2010

Is It More Difficult to Preach to Mature Christians?

Robert Findlater wrote to his father and in the letter suggested that it was more difficult to preach to mature Christians than to less mature believers or to non-Christians. This is his father's response:

‘26th March, 1807. I do not savour your opinion when you say “It must be more difficult to preach to established Christians than to those who are not, or those who have not yet attained to the knowledge of it” – except you mean a graceless minister: in that case, you are right, as he cannot preach Christ, neither knows he what way a Christian lives upon the gospel, so as to preach to them. But I never knew a godly minister but would rejoice upon having the people of God to preach to – yea, they are out of their element when they are saying any thing but “Feed my sheep – Feed my lambs.” You mention that it is to a young preacher the difficulty would be. There should be no such young preachers in the world that could not preach to the oldest Christians in it. However young the ministers of Christ are, they can say all to the oldest Christian: We have received the same Spirit of faith, therefore we speak. Without this Spirit they cannot speak, neither will they be understood. They know not the voice of a minister that is a stranger to the same Spirit of faith with themselves. I hope before you enter upon preaching you will change your opinion, which I pray God of his mercy, may grant you. Your mother prays the same.’


cath said...

Why doesn't your blog get more comments? This is such interesting stuff.

An elder i know slightly, who often acts as supply, has said on a couple of occasions that when he first had to start taking services, what worried him most of all was the thought of all the old believers in the congregation, whose understanding/experience he knew would be much deeper than his own.

Could it have been something like that underlying RF's comment to his father?

On the other hand, maybe older Christians are more receptive/tolerant than younger ones, maybe just through long training of not looking at the man? And of being better spiritually prepared in general to approach the sermon with a receptive spirit - one older lady in particular always seems to find something to appreciate in a sermon, which must surely be explained by the "get out what you put in" principle ('put in' by way of prayer, submission to the truth itself, etc). Dunno.

Malcolm Maclean said...

Regarding the number of comments, I don't know the reason for the figure. I have not informed many outside my congregation that I have this blog (or my other ones), which may explain it.

I agree that the two different responses detailed by you are often the case. A new preacher should have respect for the experience of mature believers. And a mature believer should be better prepared for listening to a sermon because they are more perceptive spiritually.

I also suspect that an essential feature of the interaction between pulpit and pew is the variety of ways by which the Holy Spirit applies the words of the preacher. On several occasions listeners have thanked me for a particular point that helped them. As they described the point I realised I had not intended consciously that particular application. Initially I thought they were imagining what I said; now I gladly accept that the Spirit uses my words in ways that I had not imagined. This encourages me as a preacher because I assume the Spirit is making relevant applications to other listeners, whatever their age or spiritual capacity. I suspect that is what Findlater's father meant.