Michael Quicke has been principal (president) of Spurgeon’s College for more than two years, coming to the historic London theological institution following more than twenty years in the pastorate. His most recent pastoral service was at St. Andrews Street Baptist Church in Cambridge.
Through his leadership and teaching of homiletics at the 460-student school — the largest Baptist college in Europe — Quicke plays a pivotal role in training a new generation of biblical preachers for Britain’s evangelical churches. He will also be a featured speaker at the International Congress on Preaching, April 22-25, 1997, in London, sponsored by Preaching magazine. He was interviewed last year by Michael Duduit.
Preaching: What is the state of Christian preaching in Britain? What particular challenges do you see for preaching there?
Quicke: It would be traditional to say that with the dearth of great preachers since the era of Sangster and Weatherhead — Lloyd-Jones was, in a sense, the last of the classical preachers — the mantle didn’t clearly fall on anyone and the preaching centers declined. The momentum for preaching was lost, particularly as other disciplines emerged, such as pastoral counseling. In our seminaries there was no modeling of great preaching, and that would have been true for the last 20, 25 years.
The state at the moment is that people are beginning to recognize the value of the sermon — which has been recognized too often as dead, clearly not a place to expect a word from God. There is a growing perception, from both pew and pulpit, that there is a need for gifted preaching. The Times newspaper has launched a national award for British preacher of the year. People are beginning to expect more, to ask questions about preaching, whereas until the last decade it wasn’t even that relevant.
So we’re in transition, and within the theological moves taking place in the country — especially because of the Charismatic renewal, which has influenced mainstream evangelicals a great deal — there is evidence of some gifted preaching. Also in the contemporary restoration churches, with the use of seeker services, there is a refreshing understanding of the place of preaching. So these are good days for preaching.
There is now a hunger to improve preaching, which just was not there even five years ago. So we’re on the move, and I think it’s well behind times.
Preaching: What are the restoration churches you mentioned?
Quicke: Emerging from an independent stream of charismatic renewal churches, a large number of house churches developed which have their own network. To start with, they emphasized worship dramatically, with a strongly authoritarian structure. Preaching of the Word has become an essential part of that. Sometimes people parody the charismatic renewal as displacing preaching; in fact sone of the key restoration models have solid expository preaching in the middle of charismatic worship.
It has made dramatic inroads since the early 80’s. The independent churches have grown tremedously since the early 80’s; they now seem to have stabilized. Within all the mainstream denominations there has been an impact. That’s why the charismatic renewal actually wears quite a different face. In some charismatic worship the Bible is not even read, but in other places — the best models, that have had the most influence — it has enlivened worship, increased participation, and at the heart of it has driven people back to the Word.
Preaching: Statistics show the Church of England has experienced a dramatic decline in membership in recent years. Could you relate the decline of British church life in any way to a loss of biblical preaching?
Quicke: I’m sure that there are other factors, but in general terms always when preaching is strong the people of God are going to be strongly shaped by scripture. If you’re not going to have effective preaching it will manifest itself.
One of the largest factors is the rapid secularization of Britain, which has marginalized the Christian voice. This has meant that many of the churches have become trapped in a kind of private religion, and are not thought to have a word on contemporary issues.
The Church of England and all the mainstream denominations have lost ground. The Baptists are the only denomination which have held their own — and just slightly gained — over the last decade. It’s an erosion, one suspects; as older people are dying they have just not been replaced. The gospel’s been trapped in a subculture.
I think the Church of England, with some strong evangelical leadership now, with some bishops committed to preaching, with the College of Preachers — which has been a most interesting development, the training of trainers through the College of Preachers — this will actually lead, I believe, to better days ahead.
Preaching: Obviously the kind of secularization you are discussing has been experienced earlier and more pervasively in western Europe but it is being seen in the United States. As one who has lived in and preached in that kind of culture, what do preachers have to say or do to speak to that kind of culture? What role can preaching play in regaining a role for the church in contemporary society?
Quicke: I believe we have to rediscover the power of biblical preaching, which really listens to the text for the people today. I believe that because the Word of God is so sharp it is always going to make entrance into the culture when you don’t expect it. We’re being driven back to listen to the Word and with eyes wide open, in our context, to dare to speak the Word in new ways. I believe the unpredictability of preaching is part of the Spirit’s work. This is why a new generation is going to hear the old truths but with a fresh urgency and a new sharpness.
There’s a tremendous mission field of people to hear the authentic Word, but we as preachers have got to make sure that we don’t think we know what it’s about, but that we let the Word do its thing — which is always unpredicatible — so that Jesus is heard again. An illustration is my church in Cambridge. When we rediscovered the gospel for the poor — it is a city center church, with the homeless in the street and all the rest — in the end it was really the Word of God that challenged us.
I’m hopeful for powerful expository preaching in Britain which relates the gospel, so that people say, “That really is critiquing what I’m doing, and making a difference, because it’s empowering.”
Preaching: When American evangelicals think of British preaching in this century, among those that come to mind are names like G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones — that strong expository tradition. Do you see that tradition being reclaimed?
Quicke: I believe expository preaching remains powerfully evident. My own definition of expository preaching is that as the Word of God is first discovered and explored by a gifted and anointed preacher, then shared, the listener walks in that discovery with the preacher. I believe the most powerful expository preaching is not prescriptive — in the sense that it’s closed off its ends, in a neat package — which in some ways it’s been parodied as: a series of steps, almost a commentary, an outline by the time you’re finished.
If you look at the best expository preaching, such as that of Lloyd-Jones, there’s an extraordinarily relevant edge, always cutting through at every stage. I also think that Lloyd-Jones is the most significant British preacher of this century, and his inheritance is still being worked out. He was far ahead of his time.
Expository preaching is alive and well. In most cities it is evidenced, though it may not be as traditional in its shaping structurally.
Preaching: What is your vision for preaching in Britain over the next decade?
Quicke: It may be wishful thinking, but I do perceive that there is a greater eagerness to learn and to preach, not simply among those preparing for ministry, but also in the pews. I will be disappointed if, within ten years, there is not a marked improvement in the levels of communication — and by that I don’t just mean that people are apparently doing a professional job. I mean that people are very much expecting to hear the Word of God, going with the scriptures, relating their lives to the scriptures. I believe that will happen more and more — a convergence of Word and Spirit that is quite striking in Britain at the moment.
Michael Quicke is one of several featured speakers at the International Congress on Preaching, April 22-25, 1997, at historic Westminster Chapel in London. Other speakers include John Stott, Roy Clements, Calvin Miller, Frank Harrington, O.S. Hawkins, William Jones, Haddon Robinson, and many others.
To receive a brochure and registration information about the London Congress, call (tollfree) 1-800-288-9673, or e-mail your request to 74114.275@compuserve.com. Outside the U.S., call 901-668-9948, or fax your request to 901-668-9663.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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