“(in)… truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (2 Cor. 6:7, RSV)
Society largely views the ten to fifteen percent among us who are left- handed as disadvantaged. But reality refuses to allow such prejudice by consistently revealing many of these who so deviate from the normal to be outstanding successes rather than as failures. In the spheres of history, literature, culture, politics, and entertainment Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Mark Twain, James Michener, Harry Truman, George Bush, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, Cole Porter, Robert Redford, and Whoopi Goldberg demand such a mention.
In the baseball world, where these are known as Southpaws [as the pitcher normally faces West toward home plate in the standard field which places his (left) throwing home to the South], Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth used their leftness to great advantage. Even the early Israelite, Ehud, drew his dagger from its cloaked and concealed position on his right side with his left hand then plunged it unexpectedly into the soft belly of the tyrant Moabite King, Eglon — a maneuver that rid Israel of its oppressors for eighty years (Judges 3:15- 30;1 Chron. 6:8).
I. BALANCE IN MINISTRY
But Paul’s message to the Corinthians about weapons of righteousness for the right hand, and for the left, offers no preference about the exact location of the armor he advocates for the effective Christian warrior. The Apostle rather simply pleads for an equipoise of weapons mat builds an appropriate balance between attack and defense — that maximizes the symmetry between sword and shield to yield the best values for both protection and assault. For the soldiers of Bible times these two fundamental implements of warfare equipped them for their basic responsibilities. Within such military symbols we find powerful images of balance, comfort, and challenge as related to a responsible, biblical, pastoral preaching ministry for today.
Jesus’ Style
Variety best describes Jesus’ role repertoire. His ministry included both attack and defense. On occasions He approached persons and related to them with a confrontational attitude. At other times He practiced methods which featured compassion, encouragement, comfort and support. This diversity appears to be as intentional as it was effective. His wide range of interventive, interpersonal relationships may be may be explained as advances deliberately designed to motivate changes in persons. But they were determined by His ability to analyze situations and to respond to the specific needs of the individuals concerned in the most appropriate manner. The diversity revealed in His role repertoire can be theologically and more precisely defined as a series of considered choices to function flexibly along a continuum of approaches ranging from the prophetic to the priestly, from the confrontational to the affirming, and from a disturbing of the comfortable to a comforting of the disturbed (Carlson, 1976: passim). Several respected psychologists have independently defined the twin poles of such relational procedures as paralleling actual contemporary therapeutic counseling methods naming them as “directive” and “evocative” (Frank, 1963: 247-248) and “reeducative” and “reconstructive” (Wolberg, 1967: passim).
A Multi-Varied Approach
Jesus faced arrogant sinners with their guilt, called many to repentance and faith, but also sensitively nourished spiritual growth from others. His approach to persons involved teaching from the Scriptures, listening, drawing both physical and parabolic pictures, asking questions, and expecting hearers to draw their own conclusions from His ministries. He preached, exhorting others to change. He taught those who considered only conduct as potentially evil about the dangers inherent within inner thoughts challenging their ideas of sin only as behavior and not as attitude. He called the sinful to become righteous, and warned the hypocritical of judgement to come. But He also played the role of a shepherd who fed, comforted, and protected the flock, nurtured the weak, and even sacrificed Himself to seek and to save the lost. Jesus’ style of relating can only be embraced in a continuous model, which may be listed illustratively but not exhaustively as —
Critic, preacher, teacher, interpreter, mediator, confronter, convictor, corrector, confessor, admonisher, advocate, sustainer, supporter, lecturer, advisor, burden bearer, listener, reprover, warner, helper, consoler, pardoner (Carlson, 1967: 187).
In Carlson’s view while Jesus’ specific roles cannot be logically or biblically segregated from each other the flexibility of His procedures does not suggest He was ever in doubt about the specific approach most relevant to the persons and situations He encountered.
Variety Balancing Extremes
Conviction differs from condemnation in that the truth, although it may be uncomfortable as it arrives, when accompanied by supportive solutions offered by the helper it quickly assumes a healing quotient which can set us free (John 8:32). The executive director of the Catholic National Institute for the Word of God is correct when he reminds us that strategies for confrontational preaching today need to be carefully cleansed of some of the directly assaultive pulpit polemics so prevalent in the pulpit pontifications of yesterday.
Given the lack of consensus about values, the need today is not “to challenge” with polemic outbursts against evil. The need is to teach — and to teach in a loving way — both believers and non-believers what the gospel reveals. Only compassionate witnesses can convince all men and women of the validity of the gospel in a world that is increasingly pagan and divided by both ethnic and religious strife. (Burke, 1995: 27).
Dr. Burke’s affirmation about “compassionate witnesses” reveals the secret of today’s successful swinging of the sword. To be accepted by our congregations as helpful pastoral leaders we contemporary preachers must totally identify ourselves also as sinners and refuse to suggest that in any way we stand above others in our needs or spiritual achievements. Our only power comes from the authority of authenticity as we acknowledge our own stretches and stresses alongside of those to whom we minister. Identification demands much more use of the inclusive pronoun “we” than of the pejorative “you”. Preachers must not picture themselves as heroes who judge others from some higher level of accomplishment but as fellow-strugglers who are in the process of discovering some of the answers to their needs so valuable that they feel compelled to recommend these to others. In a word to be confrontational today prophetic preaching needs to be a presentation by a witness, not a condemnation offered by a prosecutor anxious to prove guilt. The latter often communicates a sense of prideful superiority. The former amplifies a focus on the truth and often reveals a compassion that smooths the path for conviction generated by that truth.
Jesus’ role diversity in redemptive relationships illustrates how “… one can be confrontive without unnecessarily challenging or raising the person’s defenses”, and how “… one can be authoritative without being authoritarian” (Carlson, 1967:188). Unless we take great care our own personality needs can hunger for an unwarranted directive dominance which is then revealed through a rough shod “prophetic” approach which remains insensitive to the persons to whom we minister. On the other hand too deep a desire to be therapeutic can distort our compassion into a kind of cowardice that refrains from treating others with realism but insists on offering comfort where the courage to confront may be the primary need. Jesus shows us that one can be right without necessarily demanding that the one being helped must repentantly accept the helper’s Tightness. His style of relating also displays how persons can be “educated” (from the Latin educare to be “drawn out”) into the truth more easily than have it forced upon them.
Timing
The appropriateness of a specific approach is also important for Jesus who never offered his counsel and solutions until those who listened were ready to hear them. Persons are not easily affected by others who believe that simply saying the right words will initiate the desired changes regardless of the readiness and preparation of the ones in need. As Jesus was about to exit from the world this master Teacher recognized how ill-prepared His disciples were spiritually for the tasks ahead of them. He had taught them little about the after life, He had only barely mentioned the wonders of His atonement in passing, the mysteries of God’s sovereignty or the thousand and one other details of doctrine they really needed to master. Tempted to deliver them a crash course in theology before He left He said, “I have yet many things to say unto you,” but then added “but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).
From the Master’s perspective they desperately needed cart loads of factual information, but from the disciples’ perspective their entire horizon filled with the horror of His coming departure. They needed comfort and nurture more than factual truths of which to this point they were ignorant. Their hearts hurt and needed comfort. The impending awful loneliness of life isolated from the Lord already reached out to engulf them with its despair. So Jesus taught them about the Holy Spirit, the “other Comforter” who would be with them, resident in their hearts and lives. This pressing need He placed above His own personal desire to share other deep truths, knowing that readiness was not only the prerequisite for effective learning but that his hearers could not truly hear the value of other truths until their felt and present needs had first been adequately met.
Yet this same compassionate Jesus who nourished change in the woman caught in adultery through His protective comfort from her accusers revealed the pride in the heart of a rich young ruler by confronting him with his sinful greed and uncaring attitudes. This same gentle Teacher from Nazareth who encouraged faith in the Father’s care for His children also drove blasphemers from the Temple, and named the sanctimonious Pharisees “whitewashed sepulchers” — graves which appeared clean on the outside but whose insides filled with putrification.
He who cleansed the lepers and healed the blind also pronounced swift judgement on the fig tree for the hypocrisy that led it to pretend to be productive by an unseasonable putting forth of budding leaves without fruit. He called the sinful King Herod a fox. The One who came to serve and give His life a ransom for many also declared that those who did not repent of their sins would perish.
Paul’s Style
Paul used both the sword and the shield. The biblical book of Acts and the Apostolic epistles together reflect much of his ambidextrous ministry. Again and again he plants the shield of comfort encouraging believers to trust in guidance of God, to depend upon His promises and to believe that the good work started by him will be completed and glorious. He reminds them of God’s presence and love from which nothing in earth or heaven can separate. And in 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul compares the sensitivities of his pastoral ministry to that of a gentle nursing mother with her young child (verse 7), and defines his relationships with those he sought to influence as that of a tender and nourishing affection for the growth (verse 8). He is a father exhorting, encouraging, and motivating his children into spiritual maturity (verse 11; Cf. 1 Cor. 4: 4-17).
Yet this same Apostle is unafraid to define the sins of those to whom he writes, pronouncing judgements upon their disobedience and calling for their true repentance. He confronts Judaizers and false prophets. He argues with the philosophers declaring that the Word of God is the only real truth worthy of universal acceptance. He challenges national leaders, synagogue congregations, and political authorities with the consequences of their sinful rejection of Jesus Christ. He never hesitates to expose the superficiality, falsity, and evil sources of the pagan ideas and practices which plagued his hearers.
II. SETTING THE SHIELD
Most of us clearly discern the need for a pulpit focus of spiritual comfort in our preaching service to the congregation. Few pastors fail to set the shield of faith, to plant the protections needed from the attacks of the enemy which can deflect his buffeting blows and quench the fiery darts of his constant assaults upon us. The pastoral role easily fosters a love and compassion for others which longs to nurture spiritual growth in our hearers and to relate to them in as an accepting and supportive role as it is possible for us to be. As shepherds of the flock we see ourselves given to be
… pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for their (own) work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro. (Ephesians 4:11-14).
A Personal Experience
The graduate class I attended in USA was at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois. There, in one summer school Dr. Lois LeBar, a gray-headed slightly-built professor twenty-five years my senior destroyed all my anti-podean prejudices against women in ministry and taught me many fresh insights into the healing power of the word of God as she analyzed Elijah’s suicidal attitudes reflected in 1 Kings 19. She pointed out that Elijah’s disappointment arose just after fire had fallen from heaven at Mount Carmel at his demand, and that he incorrectly expected a revival to burst into national life from that bold stand, She also showed from the context how he had gone without food and sleep for many days, slain a crowd of false prophets at God’s command, raced the king’s chariot to Jezreel, and then received the death threat from Queen Jezebel. No wonder he was physically emotionally, and spiritually exhausted and depressed! God’s first actions included angelic provisions which caused him to rest, to eat, and to sleep.
After such emotional stretches and strains Elijah obviously needed a vacation so the Lord’s next command was for him to take a six-week tramp in the mountains. Then he was led through experiences which focused the Lord’s nearness as a reality to be discovered in the quiet silence of His presence, not in some earth-shaking thunderstorms of the revived faith of the nation which the prophet so wrongly anticipated. This God then coupled with the revelation of seven thousand others in Israel who had not bowed knees to Baal, showing Elijah that his teaming up with a pimply-faced ploughboy called Elisha would ensure the succession of his own ministry and supply the source of support and encouragement which he so desperately needed in his own service for God.
Thus the servant of God’s depression was shown to be based more in the human weaknesses which arise from pressure, his disillusionment in the feelings of failure which come from our distorted views of how we feel God ought to be acting, and his loneliness as rooting in an unwarranted independence and pride that leads us to attempt all that the Lord requires on our own.
As a young pastor such an empathetic exposition of that biblical portion came to me fraught with fresh insights and understandings about the tensions that naturally arise from our emotional natures, incorrect assumptions, neglect of proper rest, food, and even the skipping of vacations. It pictured how our disregard for physical needs, together with poor attitudes and ignorance can contribute to the spiritual situations with which we struggle much more than we often realize. The substance of that study also affirmed how the empathy and tenderness of God’s care for His prophet’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs cured his loneliness, despair and depression. Dr. LeBar so set that shield of comfort for me that it has remained with me now for thirty-five years and provides me with a biblical model I have in turn regularly raised as an effective protection for others through my ministry with some of today’ discouraged servants of God. But like most of us the challenge of effective swinging of the sword is an entirely different matter.
III. SWINGING THE SWORD
We shrink from attack — defense is easier. The courage to confront demands a higher commitment than the choice to comfort. Attack places us in uncomfortable positions of potential danger. Getting right out into the action exposes us to the enemy, increases our vulnerability to counter attack, and opens us to wounds that can hurt. Yet no soldiers ever won a battle by defense alone. The army that is content only to shelter in the fortress will take no territory, achieve no victories, and fail to advance its cause. Every soldier needs a sword as well as a shield, and we must be willing to wield them both in balance if we ever plan to win the war. An effective preaching ministry cannot be sustained through a sensitive and supportive focus alone. Most of us need to work more on our pulpit courage so as to develop a holy boldness matching those of the earliest preachers who turned their the worlds upside down. Timothy, the young and rather inexperienced pastor, was nevertheless advised by Paul to “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).
Some of our hymnal editors have excised the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers from their collations fearing that the military metaphor is inappropriate for contemporary symbolism. This they may well do, of course, but the battle is not avoided merely by deciding not to sing or speak about it! The Word still says that we contend “… against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6: 12).
Whether such a hymn continues to exist among us or not each of us still finds he or she must “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2: 3), and it is not enough just to keep the faith and to finish the course. There is also a good fight to be fought if we are ever to gain that crown of righteousness promised for us by our Lord (2 Tim. 4: 7-8). If we are to judge the attitudes held by some among us to be those revealed by their behavior we may not only need to excise such a hymn from our Christian vocabulary, but perhaps also to replace it with a revised version such as —
Backward Christian Soldiers, leave aside the war;
Back to the Cathedral, bolt and bar the door.
Christ my royal Master honored there can be,
Hymns, and prayers, and sermons, they’re enough for me!
Backward Christian soldiers, find a nice warm seat.
Leave aside the battle. Safety means retreat!
New Testament ministry was courageously confrontational. In our century it too often appears only to be apologetically acquiescent. Paul’s assaultive gospel proclamation caused a riot at Ephesus and disturbed the authorities in many other situations. He moved his preaching into the market place, debated with the philosophers and fearlessly declared the truth amid opposition in pagan cities. Wrestled against principalities and powers. Stood firm against political pressures, and affirmed the highest moral and ethical value.
Sam Jones, the tough Victorian Age Southern Methodist preacher, whose most famous convert, Captain Tom Ryman, built the Ryman Auditorium (the “Carnegie Hall of the South”) in Nashville for the evangelist’s revivals knew how to swing the sword. He did not reach rough men of the world like Ryman by pussy-footing around. Speaking about complaints about his attacks on the hypocrisy of some Tennessee leaders and criticisms of the illegal manner in which many distributors of alcohol were callously ruining local families he said,
A great many people object to pointed preaching because it pains them, they say. This suggests the story of the old lady whose daughter’s tooth ached. She sent for a dentist. He came, and pulled out a pair of big old-fashioned forceps. The old lady screamed out. “Don’t put them things in my daughter’s mouth; pull it out with your fingers!” That would be mighty nice, if it could be done. God bless you all! If you will let me get the old gospel forceps hold of these teeth, I will bring them out; but I cannot pull them with my fingers (Leftwitch, 1885: 132-133).
We do tend to prefer huddling within the four walls of our holy sanctuaries to venturing out into the marketplace where the action truly is. After all the church managed quite well for several centuries without congregational auditoriums into which we could retreat from the world. The “out-there-engaging-the-enemy-in-battle” tradition stretches back through our American history and across the world through preachers as recent as the Baptist, Billy Graham, the Catholic Fulton Sheen, and as traditional as the Methodist William Taylor of San Francisco, the Episcopalians George Whitefield and John Wesley, and Presbyterians John Knox and Peter Cartwright. Many others could be cited and we all share in the noble traditions so well-documented in the ministries of Chrysostom, Joshua, Moses, all the prophets, and even Paul and Jesus.
Any preacher can become so busy learning to be the community’s junior psychiatrist, its social conscience, or its ethical guide, that he or she can neglect mastering the one area that sets the ministry apart from all other serving professions. This is the primary responsibility which all pastors of flocks accept along with their ordination vows — the pursuit of excellence in the proclamation and exposition of the Scriptures. And to be true to this responsibility we must not only be adept at applying the “shield of faith” but also at swinging “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:16-17).
Carefully-planned sensitive approaches to the use of God’s Word in order to ease communication must also be balanced against what the Scriptures themselves have to say about the power of this “Sword of the Spirit”. The Bible affirms that the nature of the revelation it embraces is in itself alive, powerful, and sharp enough to discern the thoughts and intents of the human heart (Heb. 4: 12). I suppose that the best answer to an enemy’s criticism of my sword would be simply to use it on him. That would reveal its power once and for all!
Critics may complain that the biblical revelation we employ as the major weapon of assault upon the forces of evil that enslave souls is so blunt, weak, and antiquated that to use it only emphasizes our irrelevance for today. Yet the plain fact is that it still produces profitable results in salvation, doctrine, training, and righteousness (Rom. 15:4, 16:26; 2 Tim 3:15-17; etc). Most of us have experienced the power of the Word even when applied insensitively although this may be in the strangest of situations and under the most adverse of circumstances. This remains true as the Holy Spirit always acts as the divine Communicator who facilitates the cutting edge of God’s Word even though that sword be wielded in the clumsiest of manners.
IV. Two Cases
Two experiences immediately come to mind as illustrations of this reality — the first almost half a century ago; the second just this year.
1. Harry’s Hit
I first began my lay preaching service in Sydney, Australia, with an enthusiastic group of dedicated Christian young people. They volunteered their Sunday afternoons on the beautiful beaches and in the local parks in a transdenominational ministry which reached out offering “open-air” Sunday schools for the unchurched children of that great city. In a very real sense this was a bold exit from our comfortable churches to mount an evangelistic outreach into “enemy territory”. Often we were received with some hostility although the beaches and parks were public lands, we held all the necessary city permits, and were careful not to impose our meetings upon those who did not desire them locating our Sunday Schools on canvas automobile covers spread in quiet corners away from the crowds. I learned a great deal about courage in those situations, and often found the power of God’s Word to be incredibly effective in many difficult situations.
One of the choice stories our leaders shared with us for our encouragement concerned an old Australian evangelist, Harry Milan, himself a former alcoholic recovered through the ministry of the Sydney City Mission. He gave himself to a ministry rescuing others from skid row by introducing them to the Christian gospel which he often declared had “worked a miracle in his life by changing whisky for him into furniture for his family”. His habit was to return to the city slums where he once had resided, gather as bunch of his former pals and anyone else who would listen on a street corner, and deliver his “testimony” urging them to join him in a new life in Christ.
On one occasion, while he addressed such a street-corner crowd, one listener, obviously drunk, kept shouting out the same interjection from his place at the back of the gathering, “You’re crazy! There’s no God, and I can prove it!” As these constant interruptions quite ruined his meeting Harry finally invited the inebriate to come out to the front of the crowd and make good on his dare. Standing on unsteady feet the interrupter faced the crowd and proceeded with his argument while the evangelist stood behind him, a half-smile on his face, and with the thick study Bible from which he had been preaching tucked within his folded arms. Lifting a fist toward heaven the happy wino addressed heaven with the words, “God, if you’re up there I dare you to strike me dead, and I” give you ten seconds to do it!” He then told the crowd, “I’ll count to ten, and if He doesn’t do it — that proves He does not exist!”
Grinning slowly, with great deliberation the challenger counted, “One -, two -, three -, four-, five -;” while Harry remained quite unperturbed. The man continued, “Six -, seven -, eight -, nine -,” and with a triumphant victory smirk, “Ten!” Precisely at that moment the evangelist stepped forward from behind the man, raised his big Bible high, and brought it down with a resounding ” Whack” on the back of the top of the drunk’s head. I understand that the look on the face of the man was a wonder to behold. For just a moment it appeared that he thought that what he dared God to do really happened! Of course the crowd roared with delight at such an unexpected development.
Harry commented quietly. “I am an impatient man, and I did that because I believe our friend needed to be taught a lesson. Actually, all he has done is prove that there is a God. And he has demonstrated that our God is a God of love who would never take advantage of a poor old drunk as I did just to prove His reality. God is patient and long-suffering. He hates sin but He loves sinners”.
Now of course I am not recommending that we physically attack sinners with such crudity (although I have heard some preachers throw verbal clumps of Bible texts at unbelieving heads as if that would effect conversion) but, taken in context, the story provides a kind of paradigm of much that is significant. Perhaps there was little else the street evangelist could do at that point if he wished to rescue his meeting. Certainly from that story many of us learned a permanent theological truth in a way we can never forget.
For forty-five years I have remained convinced, by that one illustration, that God cannot be manipulated by our direction, or according to our prejudiced ideas about His nature, and that one of the best proof of His reality may often be His enduring patience with sinners.
Sometimes the Bible, and the Bible alone, may often be all that is needed under the guidance of the Spirit to reach the conclusions desired. This certainly appears so from the conversion records of Augustine, Martin Luther, John Newton, John Wesley, and many others. Strangely it appears that a simple encounter with the Scriptures, facilitated through the ministry of the Holy Spirit may also win some battles when the wisest strategy fails.
2. Barbara’s Blessing
My second “case in point” relates to the fine volume which I, and many of my colleagues in the Academy of Homiletics, read in preparation for our annual conference in December, 1995. In her volume The Preaching Life Rev. Ms Taylor courageously explores the pastoral preaching task in relation to the minister’s personal history with autobiographical honesty and humbling authenticity. One of the many gems from her courageous mine concerns her record of an unexpected visit from two militant “soldiers of the Lord” who knocked on the door of her college dormitory one day convinced they were there under the leading of God’s Spirit to find her and guide her into a commitment to Christian faith (The Preaching Life, pp. 103-105).
The two women who entered her room seemed to be in earnest and, impressed by their shining eyes and obvious sincerity, she listened reluctantly to their “pitch” despite the revulsion initiated by their clearly ultra-conservative-oriented ideas and dowdy appearance. The, what seemed to her moronic naivete, with which they led her through some Bible passages keyed to the conviction of sin, the availability of Jesus’ forgiveness, and the need for a personal relation to Him as Lord seemed mundane and irrelevant for the life of a sophisticated twentieth-century college sophomore. During that brief twenty-minute confrontation, which Barbara saw through an half-serious, half-amused frame of mind at the time, she co-operated out of curiosity and in the hope that going along with them rather than arguing would expedite their departure. While she admired their courage the prevalent feeling after she had mouthed the appropriate prayer of commitment to Christ they suggested was simple embarrassment.1 Yet the outcome of this somewhat simplistic experience amazed and astonished her.
… something happened to me that afternoon. After they left I went out for a walk and the world looked funny to me, different. People’s faces looked different to me; I had never noticed so many details before. I stared at them like portraits in a gallery, and my own face burned for over an hour. Meanwhile it was hard to walk. The ground was spongy under my feet. I felt weightless, and it was all could do to keep myself from floating up and getting stuck in the trees. Was it a conversion? All I know is that something happened, something that got my attention and has kept it through all the years that have passed since then I may have been fooling around, but Jesus was not. My heart may not have been in it, but Jesus’ was. I asked him to come in and he came in, although I no more have words for his presence in my life than I do for what keeps the stars in the sky or what makes the daffodils rise up out of their graves each spring. It just is. He just is…. (Taylor, 1993: 104-105).
At my request Barbara commented directly back to me concerning my interpretation that perhaps the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit applied the Word of God even within such a banal situation. Although the experience occurred twenty-five years ago she confesses that she still struggles to define it completely, but happily testifies to the ongoing power of the Scriptures operating through her present ministry built upon that initial and unexpected encounter.
Yes, their willingness to bring the Word had a lot to do with my receiving it. And still it happened in spite of them. What they wanted to happen happened, but not in the way they planned. …They brought a divine germ into my room which was beyond their comprehension and I caught it, though it was beyond my comprehension too. Which means that the Word of God, like the Peace of God, is beyond our understanding. His power transcends all our efforts to manage it, and thank God for that! As a preacher, I take great confidence from that memory.
I speak as well as I know how — knowing the high potential for my foolishness and failure — and something generally happens, although rarely what I had planned. (Taylor, 1995).
There you have it! A determination to set the shield coupled with a commitment to swing the sword, and all coupled with the integrity to witness to the personal value of blessings received. That is a biblical pastoral proclamation ministry. The Word of God may rightly be employed as a weapon of attack. It can be applied directly and confrontationally as well as subtly. The Word of God may also rightly be used as a weapon of defense, also providing protection and comfort. But in the pulpit the balance inherent in this double focus should always be confessional and testimonial.
References
Burke, John, “The Basics of Prophetic Preaching” in Today’s Parish (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, Vol. 27, No. 4, April/May. 1995)
Carlson, David E., “Jesus Style of Relating” in The Journal of Psychology and Counseling (Rosemead, CA: Rosemead Grad. School of Psychology, Summer, 1976, vol 4, No. 3, pp. 181-192)
Frank, J. D. Persuasion and Healing (New York, N.Y.: Schoken, 1973)
Leftwich, W. M. (ed.), Hot Shots) Sermons and Sayings by the Rev. Sam P. Jones (Nashville, TN: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1885, [reprinted 1912])
Taylor, Barbara Brown, The Preaching Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1993)
Taylor, Barbara Brown, “Personal Correspondence to the Writer”, April 6, 1995. Used by permission.
Wolberg, L. The Technique of Psychotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Grune and Stratton, 1967)
1Ms. Taylor is rector of Grace-Calvary Episcopal church in Clarkesville, Ga. My full review of her volume can be seen in Preaching (Vol. 11, No. 2) Sept./Oct., 1995)

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