There was a time in the history of the Church when the average person could hear preaching only once or twice a week, at best. Today we enjoy the privilege of having instant access to sermons on our phones, a packed schedule of great Christian conferences, and perhaps even multiple churches in our area with gifted men in the pulpit.
Aspects of this blessing are unique to our time period, but the privileges and potential dangers are not.
John Newton is primarily known for authoring the hymn Amazing Grace. But during his lifetime he was noted for responding to questions by way of written letters. One such enquirer had recently moved to a place with the opportunity to hear several sermons a week delivered by a variety of men, and wrote Newton asking how he could best navigate these uncharted waters. Newton could not have imagined just how relevant the advice contained in his response would be for Christians in 2018.
(If you'd like to listen to the letter before listening to the podcast, we've made a recording available for free in the player above. If you'd prefer to read it, here's a PDF.)
This week on the Behold Your God Podcast, we look at the encouragements and warnings Newton gave in his late-18th century letter.
Newton lists the particular giftings of different ministers early in his letter. Some ministers are plowers; their preaching seems especially gifted in plowing the soil of the heart. Others are planters; they seem especially gifted at planting the seed of the gospel. Other ministers are nurturers, who seem to have been particularly gifted to nurture souls under their care with the consistent, faithful preaching of God's Word. "Perhaps no true minister of the gospel (for all such are taught of God) is wholly at a loss upon either of these points; but few, if any, are remarkably and equally excellent in managing them all."
Matthew and John talk about a few men who seem to have been particularly gifted in our day as plowers, planters, and nurturers. Links to these ministers and where you can hear their sermons are listed under Show Notes.
Newton then moves to focus on the importance of joining yourself meaningfully to one body of believers. The temptation to be a "church hopper" was just as prevalent in Newton's day as it is in ours, but we have the added temptation of following so-called “celebrity preachers.” We catch them at conferences or listen to them online, and are in danger of beginning to value them more than our own pastors.
Addressing this dangerous tendency, Newton said, “Entreat the Lord, who knows better than you do yourself, to guide you where your soul may be best fed; and when your choice is fixed, you will do well to make a point of attending his ministry constantly.”
In the podcast, John describes more of the benefits to being in your local church consistently. “God has set up the kingdom so that Christians gather together, And because we gather together, we are able to benefit not from just one man in the pulpit but a variety of teachers within the body that have been given those gifts. They may not all be full-time. They may not be paid. They may not be the guy that is primarily in the pulpit. But they are gifted by God to explain Scripture to us.”
Being rooted and active in local manifestations of Christ's Church keeps us balanced, helps us understand the gospel, and holds us accountable to live upon the truths we have preached to us.
Take advantage of this season. Drink deep from the wells dug by great Christian teachers and preachers. Partake of the feast laid out for you. But do not forsake the blessing that is your local body and your local pastor. "How highly would some of the Lord’s hidden ones, who are destitute of the ordinances, prize the blessing of a preached gospel, with which too many professors seem to be surfeited." A true minister in the local church will love your soul much more than any Internet preacher or conference speaker ever can, no matter how godly or gifted he may be.
There is a time for listening to and reading sermons from other ministers, and we want to give you some resources to start you on the right path. John and Matthew discuss some of their favorite resources for sermons in this week’s Supporter Appreciation Episode.
While you enjoy the sermons mentioned, reconsider the points by George Whitefield we discussed last week to make sure you get the most out of the sermons you hear.
We are making the Supporter Appreciation Episode available to everyone for the first month of our new podcast. We give access to the Supporter Appreciation Episode as a tangible way of showing appreciation for those who partner with Media Gratiae monthly. If you would like more information about becoming a partner, click here.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Supporter Appreciation Episode resources
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