Why not ditch the Bible this week?Friday 30 October 2015 by Dom Goode
I found Jonathan Leeman’s “Reverberation” an extremely useful book to read because it seems to expand on the Emmanuel strap line “Seeking to let God’s words speak and shape”. The premise is based on Jesus’ words to Martha when, in Luke 10, she is caught up with serving as opposed to her sister Mary, who is listening to Jesus. “One thing is necessary”, says Jesus. “Jesus’ rebuke of Martha catches us off guard”, writes Leeman, “because it seems obvious that acts of service are better than words. Actions speak louder than words, we say...Yes, but Christianity begins not with what we do, but with the announcement of what God has done.”
Against this backdrop, Reverbation continues in three parts (the Word, the Sermon, the Reverberation) to explain that the ministry of God’s Word is essential for the local church.
1) The Word:
- Invites and divides
In part 1 Leeman explains/reminds us that God’s living and active Word is the key to whether people are Christians or not, based on their acceptance of it. God acts through His Word, speaking and shaping individuals, setting them free (“you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”) in a way that nothing else can. Finally, the church gathers around the Word and because of the Word (Acts 6 “the word of God continued to increase and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly”).
2) The Sermon:
Part 2 addresses the sermon itself. The sermon should plainly expose God’s Word (not the preacher’s), “just passing on the King’s mail”, as Leeman puts it. The Spirit works when God’s Word is preached faithfully. Leeman humbly shares the story of how he previously succumbed to the temptation of compromising on the main point of the text in order to make the sermon “more interesting”. The sermon announces (e.g. “The Kingdom of God is at hand”) and confronts (e.g. “Repent and believe in the gospel”, Mark 1:15). The sermon is more than an information transfer (like a lecture), so it confronts the hearer and requires a response to God’s Word.
3) The Reverberation:
- Scatters and, once again, invites
Part 3 has the same title as the book and is Leeman’s way of saying that everything in the local church should be filled with Bible. The songs we sing should be filled with and inspired by the Word, so when we sing them together we own and affirm the Word and we demonstrate and build our unity. Likewise, the prayers we pray should reflect the priorities for prayer that we see in the Bible (how often do we pray for the sake of God’s name [e.g. Is 45:25]?). There are some great prayers in the Bible, for instance in Ephesians, Nehemiah and Colossians, which can help us to realign our prayers with Biblical prayer. The Word should reverberate through all our conversations with each other, so that we are encouraging, rebuking, helping each other to delight in Christ and flee from sin. Finally the Word should also reverberate in all our daily lives, whether we are at home or out, with family or friends or colleagues who have not yet accepted the Word. In this way the Word is at work inviting (back to Part 1!).
Jonathan Leeman writes to address the perception that in order to stimulate church growth, something different is needed, like new events, different music, a flashy website. Whilst he argues that there is nothing wrong with these things, his premise is that only one thing is needed in the church – a commitment to biblical truth that reverberates from the pulpit to the daily lives of the hearers.