mangoes, rice, preaching

How is this for a greeting at the front of our local grocery story - Nilgiri's in Kothanur (Bangalore)?

Look at the variety of mangoes. Alphonso seems to be king, but I ain't fussy. A mela is an event where people gather in a festival-like manner. Bring it on. We tend to take the mela back home with us and have mangoes for breakfast, lunch, dinner - and the occasional snack.

But what is going on here?

Is it not true that mangoes are so commonplace and so central to life here in South India that the culture develops and distinguishes the varieties in a way that we just would not do back home in NZ?

Step inside the doors of the store and the same thing happens again - with rice. A similar variety, this time each with its own bin. Once again ... is it not true that rice is so commonplace and so central to life here that the culture develops and distinguishes the varieties in a way that we just would not do back home? [But no mela for me this time. Rice glues up my alimentary canal, leading to ailments which will remain unstated here.]

Step inside the life of the early church in the book of Acts and a similar thing is happening - for those with eyes to see. Not mangoes. Not rice. Preaching. So commonplace and so central is preaching to its life that the early church develops and distinguishes varieties in a way that we just do not do in NZ, or in India - or any other country with which I am acquainted.

Scholars tell us that there are 37 references to the growth of the church in Acts. Six associate this growth with a quality of church life. Seven link this growth with the presence of signs & wonders - but 24 references link it with preaching the word of God, in all its nuance and variety. Even a basic understanding of the book of Acts picks up its theme: the church spreads, as the Word of God spreads. It is the biography – not of Peter, or Paul – but of the Word, carried forward by preachers. The final phrase in the original emphasizes this: ‘the unstoppable word’...
Speaking of scholars, my journey on this point has twisted and turned thanks to different scholars.

CH Dodd gave me a horrible start. He zeroed in on just two words - 'preaching' and 'teaching' - and argued that there was a 'clear distinction' between the two (when the biblical data is far less certain). His analysis was unnecessarily exclusivist (allowing for no overlap in meanings) and reductionist (giving priority to just two words, when there are many more) ... and had a generation heading up the wrong alley.

Along came word-study supremo, Gerhard Kittel, rescuing me with the news of thirty-three different words for preaching in the New Testament. The mela is still on. The bins are diverse, full - nuanced.

Then, on one sleepy Friday evening in Wanaka (NZ), I was commencing my favourite ministry opportunity of all: a local-church based preaching seminar for people at the grassroots. A dozen people this time. But then - ever so quietly, as is his manner - in slipped a thirteenth person into the back row. Murray Harris, arguably New Zealand's greatest ever New Testament scholar. Gulp?! He caught me waxing as eloquently as I could on this very point. Later in the week I received a hand-written note from the professor. He affirmed what I was saying and took me to the Mela in Thessalonica - Acts 17.2-4 - carefully scripting the six different Greek words (in just three verses!) that give colour and depth, diversity and nuance, to the ministry of preaching. 

Before too long, Aussie Peter Adam came along, bringing some order to the mela when he articulated 'the many different ministries of the Word' (Speaking God's Words, 75):
(a) words of information: teach, instruct, point out, make known, remind; 
(b) words of declaration: preach, proclaim, cry out, testify, bear witness, declare, write, read, pass on;
(c) words of exhortation: call, denounce, warn, rebuke, command, give judgement, encourage, appeal, urge; 
(d) words of persuasion: explain, make clear, prove, guard, debate, contend, refute, reason, persuade, convince, insist, defend. confirm, stress;
(e) words of conversation: say, speak, talks, answer, reply, give answer.

There is a need to thicken and deepen and broaden the 'ministry of the Word' that happens in and through local churches. Here is one application of what it could look like: preaching: acts and now.

nice chatting



JR said…
Thanks Paul. I remember the Advance Homiletics class with you. Your teaching has made me enough to share with the pastors and Christian Leaders in North East India. God continue to bless your ministry.
Paul Windsor said…
I hope and pray that the best is yet to be, JR!

Popular Posts