Brothers and Sisters,
It has been my privilege over the past three weeks to speak at a “Share Life” campaign at Christchurch St Ives. This is a large dynamic evangelical Anglican church in Northern Sydney. Although I have not been able to be at a Sunday service in the church, attended by the whole congregation – for the past three Sundays I have been driving up to the church and preaching to a camera, doing a Q and A, both morning and evening. It has been a challenging and interesting experience. Just a few observations.
- I hate preaching to a camera. It is not the same as speaking to people – which is predominantly interactive. When I preach normally, I can see how people are reacting – confused? Amused? Angry? Bored? – body language and vocal responses say so much. When you are talking to the camera you are guessing what the reaction might be. Given my particular style I have no doubt that there were people who were really annoyed – because of something they thought they had heard, which I did not say.
- It is important that when people use media to communicate the Gospel, they have people who know how to operate that media. I was really impressed with the St Ives team (and it does take a team). I thought they were professional, well organised and prayerful.
- Islam is an evangelistic religion which does not have an evangel. Driving to St Ives I listened to a couple of Islamic radio stations – there were at least two. The Christian ones seemed to only have music – the Islamic ones seemed to mostly have sermons. I think I preferred the Islamic music and the Christian sermons! The Islamic sermons were so depressing – some were well delivered and interesting – but all of them were legalistic. Islam is a religion of salvation by works. ‘Do this and you shall live’. You submit to God and hope that he will be merciful to you. But where were the Christian messages? That’s a big question…The Muslims seemed less concerned about entertainment!
- Q and A is a great way to preach the Gospel…I love doing this – not least because it enables dialogue. It is not a replacement for the interaction of preaching directly to people – but it is in my view an essential part of online preaching.
- It’s harder to preach the Gospel to non-Christians when Christians are your judges. What do I mean by that? My concern in these kinds of situations is to communicate the Gospel to non-Christians – that is what I was asked to do. But the trouble is that sometimes Christians have a particular view – not only of what the Gospel is (it’s relatively easy to agree that – if you are a bible believing Christian) – but how it should be communicated. Many Christians have a kind of formulaic view. Some of us judge by our own experience, how we were converted.
I was grateful to get a lot of feedback from people who attended online. Not all of it was 100% positive – which was excellent – because that made it more meaningful. Most of the more critical comments were probably true (some of the positive ones might also have been true!) but it was intriguing to me that whilst the non-Christians seemed to engage with and enjoy what they heard – it was some Christians who struggled a bit more. I think they were just not used to the ‘left field’ style and my attempts to provoke the non-Christians to think and question. In that regard you can almost always tell the difference between the questions that come from non-Christians – and the questions that come from the Christians asking what they think a non-Christian would or should ask! It was also interesting to do a half hour video interview every Wednesday for the Christians as a follow up…
- God’s word will never return to him empty. There were several hundred people who listened to each sermon and service. The team reckoned that at least 50-60 each week were non-Christian guests. I am told that two people professed faith and others showed an interest in joining bible study groups. I am immensely thankful for and encouraged by that news, but at one level it is not necessary for me to know that in order to be encouraged. Why? Because I am absolutely certain that God’s word will never return to him empty but will always accomplish the purpose for which he sent it. My only prayer is that I communicate the Word, and don’t get in the way. I totally believe that the Spirit will do the rest – and indeed if He doesn’t – then all my effort is just hot air. But a preacher who believes what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty and God’s word can preach with confidence- but not self-confidence. My series was on Romans 8 – Real Hope. If the people got my message then it failed…if they got the message of Romans 8 then we will reap with songs of joy!
Any way here is the last service – it starts at about 12 minutes in. You can get the other ones on the Christchurch St Ives website.
I hope and pray you have a blessed week in these troubled times – and that you will know the peace and joy of the Lord,