(This post is re-published so that other citations made elsewhere in the web in reference to this post can be read in its full and proper context. I have also added related posts that I think are helpful for further reading.)
Yes I have descended to the tabloid sewers for the title of this post. No this is not a post about new covenant cannibalism. But would you have taken a second look if the title were, “Dear pastors and preachers….” or “what pastors and preachers can learn from Joseph Prince”? Make no bones about it, I took this from the cliched analogy of eating the flesh and leaving the bones aside, when people are advised not to throw away the whole package just because of something they are doubtful about, but to take what is edible and edifying and discard what is personally indigestible.
Joseph Prince’s “Destined to reign”
Dr Gordon Wong who is the Bishop William F Oldham Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Theological College and an ordained minister of the Methodist Church in Singapore, had written a review of Joseph Prince’s book. On the whole it was positive though there were a few concerns he had. But he had gracious and good things to say about Joseph Prince’s teaching on grace. To read his whole review, go HERE. Each pastor and preacher has to discern for himself what he can “eat” of Joseph Prince’s teaching on grace and law.
Joseph Prince’s preaching
But it is in methodology, not theology, that is the focus of my post, in particular, preaching and teaching the Word. Many would agree with me that the magnetic attraction of New Creation Church is Joseph Prince and his preaching. Every Sunday can be a hassle because of the parking; and the queueing and the overflow video rooms, and yet people turn up in droves. The worship and music is equal to many other megachurches. My conclusion is that what stands out is his anointed, interesting and liberating preaching of grace.
More indicatives and much less imperatives
There are at least two things we can learn from JP as pastors and preachers. I think the first is that we need to preach more sermons in the indicatives and less in the imperatives. Too many sermons in our pulpits focus on the ‘what we must do’ (imperatives) rather than ‘who Christ is and what he has done for us’(indicatives). We assume that the foundations of understanding of the gospel have already been laid and that people see how those liberating truths are linked with our everyday struggles and temptations. But this is such a fatal assumption. We do not need to preach on these, we think, so we concentrate on the imperatives: the what, whys, and especially the hows of all the demands and commands of the word of God. So people get an overdose of what is required of them, and constant reminders of what they often fail to do and live up to. End result: sense of defeat, failure, feeling hypocritical, discouragement, and frustration about living out the faith.
The tragedy is that in some quarters they like it when the preaching is tough on the hearer and brings him to deep remorse and self-loathe. Yes give it to us preacher, we deserve a good forty minus one scourging! Such an approach is just self-defeating and unknowingly pastors and preachers are creating a performance and failure mentality in the congregation. The members constantly feel joyless, defeated, frustrated, disillusioned and the happy Christian life seems a mirage in a spiritual desert, because they are reminded every week that they are not up to God’s standard.
We can eat the flesh of Joseph Prince and preach more sermons that exalt who God is and what he has done for us, and what we have and are as a result of our faith in Him. How about three messages a month that is predominantly ‘indicative’ and one that is ‘imperative’; more promises and less commands? Do this to redress old imbalances slanted towards ‘imperatives’. To get more clarity about the indicatives and imperatives of preaching read an extract from the professor of preaching from Fuller Seminary, Ian Pitt Watson. Go HERE to a previous post I wrote in Jan 2008 and re-published recently.
Inspire faith, hope and love
The second thing we can do is to deliberately seek to inspire faith, hope and love in our preaching. Joseph Prince knows the audience well and he is keenly aware of what they need. I remember a few pastors asking one of our friends husband why he attends New Creation Church, and he gave us an lightning bolt of an answer. He said, “I’ll be frank with you guys, so don’t get offended. Do you know how torturous it is sit through the sermons you all preach. Every time I hear a sermon, I feel the worse for it, more discouraged and defeated and a failure. I work through the week and am so stressed and discouraged and worried over my job challenges and instead of getting encouraged, you guys give me greater discouragement. When I go to NCC, every week I get uplifted, inspired and more hopeful.”
Jesus himself understood the multitudes and he too often preached to inspire hope and faith. His toughest messages were reserved for the people steeped in hypocrisy, but when he speaks to the common man, he preached hope, solutions, encouragement of a kingdom and God of forgiveness, unconditional fatherly love, provision, kindness, peace and joy.
Eat the flesh of Joseph Prince and go and do likewise: go inspire faith and hope in God especially in these times of bleak, dismal future. One way we can catch the essence is to read and listen to his stuff with an eye to his methodology. Read his daily devotional which gives that constant reminder of what is needed for the congregation in terms of its encouraging slant. Too many of us are too analytical and major on analyzing the problems and focus too little on the Great Solution, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the indicatives of preaching.
Be yourself but do not ignore underlying principles
Of course each preacher is unique and has his own style, substance and strengths. There is only one Rony Tan; one Lawrence Khong; one Kong Hee and one Joseph Prince. And there is only one unique YOU. What we can do is to see the underlying principles at work in this transformational model of preaching and apply them diligently and discerningly, and serve out the Word in our own differing capacities, styles and strengths.