I preached on Jesus’ letter to the church in Pergamum recently and journaled my progress.
Monday (1 hour) – no inspiration
It was my day off but I wanted to get the passage in my head so I could sleep on it. Spent an hour or so looking at the passage but got very little out of it except it’s was quite similar to Smyrna which I have already preached on. Wished I wasn’t preaching on it. Wondered how they could be commended like Smyrna for being faithful unto death and then corrected on their toleration of false teaching. Wondered what false teaching was going on. Concerned about link to Acts letter where food sacrificed to idols is mentioned. Find that concept quite hard to get my head around requiring some detailed exegeses. ie to eat or not to eat.
What is the hidden manna and the stone and the name? Sounds good but quite mysterious. Wondered if it was about teaching/truth/God’s word ie double edged sword. Could I do something on the bible? Doctrine, truth etc…
Read revelation for dummies. Good background but didn’t give me a way in.
Tue (2 hours) – the fog
There is some fogginess about this passage because the terms are not clearly defined. Spent a couple of hours doing research trying to inform myself a bit more. Looked up Nicolaitons on internet, and began looking at Balaam. Read all of Sam Storm’s “To the one who conquers” chapters on it. People make guesses about the Nicolaitans and the manna and the stone etc but no definite answers. Need to read/think/pray more to form my own convictions.
Manna = feeding on Jesus
Stone = entry to wedding of the lamb
Name = intimacy with Jesus. Some people have a name used only between the two of them. Don’t think soppy, think connection. History. relationship. Not “Honey bee”. Army nicknames?
Wed (5 hours) – consume commentaries
This is the big day. I need to do the bulk of my background reading and internalising here with the pressure of preaching still several days away. I am wanting to be impacted by the passage or at least to understand it. It doesn’t always happen to early but this is when I try to get to that point.
I read a lot of commentaries; 7 so far. They provide some background but are not that helpful. I do not want to preach on a list of possibilities of what the stone is! Still, having read them all I feel I am not missing something and have mapped out the bounds of orthodoxy for the passage within which to hear God on it.
I wanted to identify what was clear so I could preach on that rather than on vagueness. Talked to Sarah late in evening about it and in doing so began to feel that the clear bit was Jesus’ criticism that the church was not addressing wrong teaching/thinking. It was probably to do with licence to sin, sexual immorality etc. Much of the NT letters have stuff about false teachers in them so it’s a big deal.
Key question is what wrong teaching is going on in the church today, or at least what are we tempted to take on?
Thursday (1 hour) – ticking over
I usually have other work commitments (this time training) on Thursdays so don’t get much prep done. It’s a day to let things brew. Probably spent an hour in all on preach.
I had the opportunity to ask Mick Taylor what cracks he saw inside the church at the present time that Jesus might hate. Things we are blind to as we fight well on other fronts but are happening right under our noses and among our ranks.
Possible structure for preach:
1) introduction to church and their strength in resisting temptation from the outside world
2) negligence in addressing error within and Jesus hatred of the teaching.
3) What teaching he might be concerned about now. From scripture if pos, ie family breakdown, grace is a licence to sin, self centeredness, emphasis on success and the prosperity gospel. I am concerned though about picking random things out of the air.
4) How we repent and combat these things.
5) The prize.
Not happy with titles so far: “taking grace for granted”, “What Jesus hates”, “licentiousness and legalism”. Realised that the little word “repent” is important and needs to be unpacked in this situation.
Friday (12 hours)- breakthrough
I am usually very tired on Fridays. I aim to make some progress and get near completion but rarely do.
I was given some prophetic words at the early morning prayer meeting that though I was banging my head against a brick wall I would step back and charge and push through (spot on). Come at it from a different angle. God would stop me in mid preach and give me something. I read more in the morning but can’t hear God on this passage. Talked to friends about passage. Listen to 2 hours of preaches by Greg Haslem. Read surgeon’s preach on Pergamum. Did more internet research. Still can’t hear God and feel like I have no way in.
Decide to cycle home and pray. Half way back the penny drops and I get a key way in. From now on it’s a time game to shape and prepare it. They key is the new strategy of Satan. Having failed trying to coerce external behaviour from outside the church he is going to change belief from within. I felt God highlight some areas where this could be happening in the church: truth, Moral responsibility, grace, supernatural power, men and women and marriage, success. Another key concept is mixing. Intro could be about mixing drinks/cocktails. Title could be “Christin Cocktails”. Get home and start to type out intro and first bit. Phew.
Saturday (12 hours) – shaping up
The pattern for Saturdays is basically work until it is done, usually near midnight, but I try to take a break and get some time with family.
I try to type it all up in rough but by 3pm I know I’m going to have far too much and there is still a lot I have not written (manna and stone to go!). I need to finish writing it all then have time to go back and hone it. I feel confident I have the main message though.
At 8pm I finalise the structure and can see how my points come from passage rather than plucked out of air. They present the gospel well and I have faith for people to get saved. I start powerpoint at 10pm which always helps hone the structure. At 11pm I go through it and as expected I have way too much material. I will decide what to drop on the hoof tomorrow but have some ideas now and mark some bits as optional. Gave some thought to leading into breaking of bread and key points that linked in with that. 11:30 go to bed.
Sunday (1 hour) – Delivery day
8:30 go through preach again to get it fresh in my head. Add a few bits. Feel it’s coming together but have run out of time to perfect. Another day and it would be finished! Put PowerPoint on memory stick as I can’t use email.
No actual prophetic on Sunday to encourage me in what I am saying but songs chosen by worship leader seem very appropriate. Feel tired but confident that I know what God wants to say. Got on to preach in good time. Cut some stuff out as I go but added some in (white stone) and lingered on bits. Feel I paused well and communicated the main thing. Lead into breaking of bread with application points linked to that. Was just over 45 mins I think which was too long but not too bad. I got to second sight in time where I cut it is down again to just over 30 mins.
Post preach I felt I could have linked in more of the background stuff to the preach (which I did at second sight a bit more) ie the library. Picture of information from culture outside church as stored in library being mixed with scripture inside the church.
Felt very drained for rest of day and fought against thoughts of being rubbish. Worried I had been too negative and put people off Jesus. Focused on the love of God for me because of what Jesus had done. Wish I had added in stuff about manna and white stone and highlighted that this was all about God’s word a bit more. Felt I got the heart of what God wanted to get across but wished I could have crafted a much better preach. Reminded myself I did my best, that a few days ago I had nothing and that God isn’t looking for a polished work of art but a heartfelt faithful proclamation of the gospel through the life and limitations of a person. Heard that two people responded to the gospel which was great news. Made me feel a bit better. Got a couple of encouraging text messages. Thinking about blogging this message somehow or developing it future.
Next week (2 hours) – follow up
Found out that Rob Bell’s new book has been accused of mixing the gospel for western tastes. Decided to blog on preach but try to keep it short. Posted this journal. Begin to look at next preach on Jesus’ letter to “Philadelphia” but at first glance – no inspiration!