I picked up a copy of Helmut Thielicke’s Encounter with Spurgeon. Essentially it is a 45 page reflection on Spurgeon’s homiletics by a theologian you might not expect to rave so wildly about his work and ministry, followed by selected highlights from Spurgeon’s writings. I have not read Thielicke since studying ethics at seminary, but I will have to be disciplined not to just copy most of the 45 pages here in the next few days! However, I do think this can be a Thielicke on Spurgeon week as far as this blog is concerned.
It would be well for a time like ours to learn from this man. For our preaching is, to be sure, largely correct, exegetically “legitimate,” workmanlike and tidy; but it is also remarkably dead and lacking in infectious power. Very often it strikes us as an unreal phantom that hovers above and is isolated from what people feel are the actual realities of their life and what they talk about in their language. There can be no doubt that for many preachers it is simply an escape when, in the face of this failure to get returns in the area of preaching, they take flight into the cultivation of liturgical ceremonial and even make a virtue of the vice of wanting to ignore the times and live in some timeless, spiritual world.
In this desperate situation which threatens to break down even the best of men – for it is a desperate thing to feel the burden of souls committed to our charge and not to be able to do anything about it – everything depends upon our gaining some standards for that which is “Theme Number One” of the church – our preaching. (p.2)
We can be technically good, but effectually useless. If the preaching doesn’t connect with listeners in a meaningful way, then it is a ghostly imitation of the real thing. So, for many preachers struggling with their ineffectual ministry, it is an easier cop out to act as if it is good to be irrelevant and aloof. But souls are going to a lost eternity and we can’t do anything about it, and yet we can, we must, do this one thing – we must pursue effectual preaching because that is the main thing in the church.