I have been back to normal pastoral and preaching duties for one month now, and it has been good, yet challenging, to get back to the disciplines of preparation for preaching and pastoral visitation. There is something about pastoral ministry that is both very demanding and also most rewarding.
I have been reading a wee bit of Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) again. He was probably America’s greatest theologian, although many would argue he was not as comprehensive or as balanced in his theological writings and reflections as, say, the English Puritan, John Owen (1616-1683).
Edwards’ sermon on John 5:35, “He was a burning and shining light”, and entitled “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister”, is particularly helpful in emphasising the need for a minister to be characterised by both heat and light. Even though written many years ago, there is a contemporary relevance to what he says. This applies particularly to preaching.
Light refers to the content of a sermon, heat to its delivery. If a preacher has light without heat, he may please his audience with entertaining sermons or (more likely) he may bore them with academic and accurate sermons. But he will not reach their hearts. If a preacher has heat without light, he may excite and arouse the emotions of his audience, but any change in their lives will be short term because he will not reach their hearts either. So a good sermon must contain both heat and light. It must be a clear and illuminating exposition of Scripture, but it also needs to be warm, powerful and fervent.