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All Round Ministry

There has been no blog for the past three weeks because I have been on holiday with my wife in Australia for three weeks.

It was something of a busman’s holiday as I did some speaking for a friend I had met in Burundi. Tim and I had run seminars in the capital Bujumbura on preaching Mark’s Gospel and he asked me to lead one for preachers in his area south of Perth.

I then had the opportunity to speak at their church weekend at a beach front camp nearby.

It has given me time to think about what impact our culture has on our preaching. I spoke with the preachers in Australia about a book I had read called Preaching with an Accent which was written by the faculty of Morling College in Sydney. The book seeks to explore what is distinctive about Aussie culture and how preachers should approach different genres of Scripture when preaching in Australia.

One aspect of this was of particular interest to me. The editors suggested that although Aussies display a confident, self-sufficient, private individualism, they also have a growing sense of anxiety.

This is something that Mark Sayers picks up in his excellent post-Covid reflection A Non-Anxious Presence. The author helpfully explores how the move from in-person to online church during lockdowns has challenged the strategic importance of the gathered church and that this has led in turn to an anxiety among Christian leaders concerning their identity and purpose. The author describes this time as “in-between moments” and “grey zones that create anxiety.”

I have been encouraged to see so many excellent young church leaders raised up British church life. There can be a tendency among church leaders who are millenials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) to be self-confident but also requiring reassurance.

Pethaps some of that anxiety arises from inhabiting a world that is increasingly connected digitally. Anyone who has a tendency to crave the approval of others is going to suffer in a generation that has learned how to use the “like” button!

I write this blog from Latvia where I have been over the weekend. It was our last School of Preachers weekend for this academic year. That means listening to my students preach their final sermons for assessment. I listened to 13 short sermons that were all in their way good. It was especially pleasing to see students putting what they have learned into action.

There is something rather beautiful about seeking Latvian men thrive. Post-war Latvian society has tended to marginalise men in what has traditionally been a matriarchal society.

I was delighted to see my students (who are all male this year) speak with confidence in God, his word, and their own abilities. Yet it was interesting to hear them preach sermons (many from the Psalms) that tapped into the mood of the times in Latvia: a feeling of uncertainty, a lack of national security, and the anxiety that produces.

Good preachers need to know God, know themselves, know Scripture, know their culture, and learn how to put all these together in a coherent way as they faithfully lead and preach.

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