Saturday, March 29, 2008

Personal conviction and faith

Today I came across a stimulating quote from Frederick W. Robertson ( a nineteenth century preacher):
"It is not a minister's wisdom but his conviction which imparts itself to others. Nothing gives life but life, real flame alone kindles other flame; this was the power of the apostles: 'We believe and therefore speak.' Firm faith in what they spoke, that was the basis of the apostles' strength."

The word "conviction" appears rarely in much current description of "good preaching." The apostolic certainty seems dimmed: "for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). Some may (rightly) suspect passion in the pulpit, but is anything more authentic than a convinced believer on fire, proclaiming God's truth? I, for one, plead for personal conviction and faith in today's preachers.


Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if what we see in the church, and therefore in pastors in the church, is a form of dialecticalism. Quick review here, this theory, simply put, posits the 3 fold progressive idea of thesis--anti-thesis--synthesis. Unforunately in the church we seem to all too often never get to the anti-thesis. We just seem to swing from thesis to anit-thesis and back again.

Case in point, when I became a Christian in the early 70's I observed that passion was a little seen part of what most evangelical preachers shared with their congregations. I heard about it in "spirit-filled" churches but was warned about their "error".

Today we are told that since truth does not exist any longer we must convey our feelings about our faith, we must offer the opportunity for a feel good service so that people can leave feeling they've had a moving experience.

Will we swing around again in another 30 years. Probably, but that doesn't mean I have to agree or even approve.

Conviction isn't enough if you're convinced of falsehoods. Truth is insufficient and cold without love and not too many people embrace cold truths.

So I guess I agree that we need both in leaders. We need leaders who are convinced that what they believe is truth and that because they have experienced this truth it has changed them profoundly in a way that causes them to not just accept the truth but love it and therefore need to share this truth-love to others.

I certainly pray for a new pastor like this at Calvary!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of your point. During any age of the Church, a truly gifted leader/pastor has been one who presents the truth in love. This is not done as some dialectical process in which a good sermon is "synthesized." There is no tension between truth and love. They are not thesis and anti-thesis. They both share in the same thesis.

I guess what you are saying is that, at times, preachers foresake the truth to make people feel good. But that is not foresaking the truth in the interest of love. Indeed, foresaking the truth would not be loving at all.

Instead of thinking about trading truth for love or vice versa as a dialectic, I prefer to think of it as a perversion of God's Word and His Will.

We do need a pastor at Calvary who has conviction in the sense that I believe Michael is talking about. This conviction does not exclude love for the sake of truth or truth for the sake of love. It is a more holistic conviction. Both truth and love for God and others are at the heart of this conviction.

In the time I have been at Calvary, I can only think of one time when I felt there was a significant tension between truth and love. I have been troubled by Calvary's approach to gays. I thought Ray preached the truth, but I did not think it was done out of love. I thought it was done for headlines. It set back considerably any effort by Calvary to witness or minister to gays.

MichaelQuicke said...

"Speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4.15) is one of the toughest issues confronting preachers. As you can imagine, for this very reason, I am keen to avoid personalizing this issue! (I remember a blog dissecting me ruthlessly after a conference I led at Green Lake). But I do believe that conviction in the preacher necessarily involves a truthing and loving character. Proclaiming and discerning the truth is partly bound up with the Spirit's activity, both in the quality of the words spoken and also heard: "the spiritual man makes judgments about all things.." (1 Cor 2:15).

Anonymous said...

I wasn't really commenting on Calvary, more on the evangelical church in general. And I wrote the wrong word at one point. I meant to say that we all too often don't get to synthesis. That's not to say that many churches don't get there or that many preachers don't get there. I'm talking about larger church trends.

Of course the goal to fully experience both the truth of God and the love of God and then share that with the world.

That being said, I still believe the "church" has been guilty of swinging from one polarity to another. Further I think that this type of polarity is borne out of self-centeredness. When we finally get our way after a long time of not getting what we thought was important we tend to dismiss or minimize that which we don't care for.

So I pray for leaders who will encourage and challenge us to grow up into the fullness of the image of God with both truth and passion.