Richard S. Taylor
A pastor should seek to accomplish by his pulpit ministry some very definite things.
Clarity of doctrine is absolutely essential. I never tire of pointing to Paul’s words to Timothy in I Timothy 4:16: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Doctrine is here equal in importance to the life lived by the preacher. This is true because the validity of one’s spiritual life hangs on the truth of the doctrines. If the doctrine of the resurrection is untrue, the placing of one’s faith in that doctrine is futile. Equally crucial are the doctrines of the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, Justification by Faith, Regeneration, the Baptism with the Spirit, Entire Sanctification, the Second Coming, Heaven and Hell, and all the related doctrines of the Christian faith.
When therefore Paul urged Timothy to take heed or to watch his life and doctrine he was saying, “Keep close to God and live a life of holiness,” and secondly, “Keep note of the truths of the Christian faith by which you have been brought into a saving relationship with God. Do not neglect your walk with God, and do not allow your mind to become foggy in respect to the great truths which are the underpinnings of your salvation.”
There are truth pillars, defined by words, called doctrines, which state clearly the truths to which we must cling. Around these we organize our entire life, thought patterns, commitments, devotion, value system, aims and ambitions.
Is this safe? Yes, because these doctrines converge around Jesus Christ. The doctrines teach us that Christ is God, that He died for our sins, that He rose bodily from the grave, that He lives today, that He hears our prayers, that by the Holy Spirit He lives in our hearts. This is the core of the doctrine Paul was talking to Timothy about.
This doctrine, undiminished and uncompromised, is to be transmitted outward, from one group to another, and downward, from one generation to another. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
If men are reliable they do not revise, modify, or invent new doctrine—they transmit apostolic doctrine.
Teach and preach doctrine! This was Timothy’s duty, and it is equally the duty of every pastor today.
HOW TO PREACH DOCTRINE
The secrets of clear doctrinal preaching are three: clarity, simplicity and repetition.
First, make it plain. The pastor must learn the art of taking deep and sometimes complex truths and reducing them to manageable bites. To succeed he must digest them first himself. Ideas and doctrines must be clear in the preacher’s mind before he can make them clear to his hearer’s minds. And he must be sure the Bible supports are obvious and convicting.
Second, keep it simple. For understandability, aim at junior catechism level.
Third, repetition is essential. Advertisers know this. It doesn’t need to be a dull recital on the part of a preacher whose brain never cradles a new idea. Advertisers repeat, but they dress their repetition up with new and exciting attention-grabbers.
Preachers, too, can be fresh and original in their presentation and still faithfully expound the holiness message. When it is done well, a whole generation grows up knowing what we believe and what the biblical supports are. Rarely will such a congregation drift to non-Wesleyan churches.
KNOWLEDGE IS NOT ENOUGH
The pastor’s holiness preaching should seek to lead his people not only into a correct understanding of the doctrine, but also toward seeking and finding a true sanctification state of grace. A right kind of holiness preaching will result in some people, along the way, seeing and finding “the blessing.”
This is most apt to occur in new converts. A man was so remarkably converted in my church one night (after praying over two hours non-stop) that he walked back and forth on the platform praising the Lord, and on the following Saturday night joined me in a evangelism endeavor in the tiny town. Upon this occasion he got right out in the middle of a street and shouted his testimony.
My problem was, how could I instruct this man respecting the need for a second work of grace? As far as he knew, he needed nothing more. I had to admit that he had more fervency and fire by far than most of my “sanctified” members. But I prayed earnestly for some weeks that the Holy Spirit would awaken him to a sense of need. My prayer was answered.
In his way of putting it, he was worried that he was “losing the power.” I instructed him doctrinally and preached the next Sunday on entire sanctification. He came to the altar. While he did not get through at his first seeking, he continued to see at home on his days off from work. One day he became so in earnest that he shut himself in his bedroom and labored in prayer for hours. In fact, he told me later that when he “broke through” he found himself on his back under the bed.
And he really was filled with the Spirit. His spiritual life was deepened, sharpened, stabilized.
HELPING THE SANCTIFIED
The right kind of holiness preaching will also result in newly sanctified people becoming established in holiness. Establishment will require—
• learning to walk by faith;
• learning to do holy warfare;
• learning the standards of holiness ethics;
• acquiring habits of personal discipline in Bible reading and prayer;
• learning faithfulness in personal witnessing.
Much careful mentoring is needed. The difference between temptation and sin, and between mistakes and sin, must be explained. Learning to understand and handle emotions can be tricky. Prayer and Bible study, sensitivity to the Spirit, quick obedience, faithful witnessing, whole-hearted stewardship—these are all requisite to growth in grace.
Not only is the experience basic, but the holy living which validates the experience is basic, too. Sanctification is a crisis, but it is also a process.
Becoming an effective holiness preacher is difficult, but it is our duty. We must pray mightily for the Holy Spirit to help us. We should study the art of preaching which is specifically holiness—I mean “second blessing” holiness. We need to read the sermons of strong holiness preachers—not to use them but to learn from them.
Above all, we must make sure we have the blessing ourselves. If there is any doubt then let us pray through until all doubt is removed. Then tell our people what God has done for us. Rejoice in it, glow in it, radiate the grace of God, keep filled with the Spirit, until our people will want what we have. Then revival will come to our church, and it will never be the same again.