I’m slowly settling into my role as the intentional interim pastor. I helped plan the service and I led several elements in addition to the preaching. My sense is that the service flowed more smoothly and the audience response – after the service ended – suggests that they felt a deep connection with the Lord’s presence.
The sermon was the first in a lengthy series that will unfold the Missio Dei throughout the scriptures to connect the people to their role in God’s work. Having served a fair share of client churches as the intentional interim pastor and having coached others, I have developed a set of convictions about what interim pastors should preach.
What should interim pastors preach?
I doubt that there is a dysfunctional or declining church anywhere on the face of the earth that has a robust mission and a compelling vision. At least I have yet to visit, consult for or serve as interim pastor to such a church.
I’m probably the little boy with a hammer (the world looks like a nail). Based on my personal experience, that of my colleagues and what the research literature on this question shows I am certain that any pastor who plans to lead as a deliberate change agent – settled pastor or intentional interim pastor – has a primary preaching responsibility. Above all else the preaching must show God’s plan to re-establish the kingdom, a task best accomplished by expository preaching of the salient Old and New Testament passages.
It is indisputable that God’s kingdom is one of the Bible’s primary themes (It is the theme in my opinion). Royal motifs first appear in Genesis and their find fulfillment in Revelation. The prophetic kingdom longing that closes the Old Testament echoes in the opening pages of the New Testament. From the Baptist’s call to Israel, to its full exposition by Jesus, to the primary burden of Paul’s apostolic ministry, the kingdom of God is the central focus and organizing principle of the divine revelation to humanity. God’s final purpose in creation is to show his Son as the sovereign ruler of all things. This, above all the other grand doctrines of scripture, encompasses and integrates the entirety of God’s written revelation to us.
Let me say it again
It is ironic that the largest North American religious group to prominently feature kingdom theology in its official doctrinal statements is neither Christian in its convictions nor biblical in its theology. Kingdom theology figures prominently in the official doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it is scarcely mentioned in the doctrinal statements of the largest Christian denominations in North America.
This is especially puzzling because the doctrine of the Kingdom is the theological center of the Old and New Testaments and the exegetical key that both illuminates and links even the most puzzling texts from Genesis to Revelation. This is clear in the apostle Paul’s self-awareness. He identified himself as a minister of the new covenant (2 Co 3:6) and summarized his apostolic ministry as “preaching the kingdom” (Acts 20:25); a summation echoed by Luke’s retrospective look at the end his written record of Paul’s work (Acts 28:31). Within the epistolary literature more than 150 texts of various lengths link the Church to God’s kingdom plan.
Exegesis of these passages reveals that the Church serves at least two purposes in God’s kingdom program: it produces kingdom citizens of all nations with gospel proclamation and it trains kingdom administrators by means of disciple making. Although the Church is neither the kingdom nor will it usher in the kingdom, it is a means of moving toward fulfillment of theocratic purposes that appear first in the creation narratives in Genesis.
So this week I commenced a lengthy process of providing an opportunity for the people to (1) understand what God is doing in the world, (2) grasp their church’s role in God’s work and (3) how they might order their lives around their church’s mission and God’s work in the world today.
Here is the sermon outline I followed this Sunday. Earlier in the service I did a dramatic reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3 with John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:15-18 and Psalm 8 layered in at right places.
Text: Genesis 1:1 – 2:3
Main Idea: God’s kingdom began with a perfect world where all things obeyed the Word of the Lord, ruled by mankind in his behalf.
I. The power of God’s Word created a beautiful world.
A. God’s powerful Word produced creation
- The phrase “God created” is used three times to emphasize that everything that exists was brought into existence by his Word.
- God’s Word creates that which is good; the Hebrew idiom “good” is similar to the English “beautiful” or “expensive.”
B. In God’s world everything obeys God’s Word.
- “And it was so” answers every “and God said.”
- This establishes an important theocratic principle; it is the basis of the Law and the object of faith.
II. God appointed mankind to rule creation.
A. Humankind signifies that God is the Sovereign Ruler of creation.
- The “image” reflects the practice of the ANE kings of erecting images around their empire.
- The image of the ANE kings were symbols of a king’s identity and authority.
B. We were appointed to rule God’s creation.
- The ANE kings were thought to be visible representations of the gods, in whose behalf they ruled.
- Terms of rulership describe humanity’s creation: dominion, subduing
A. We are sons and daughters of the king and are therefore royalty ourselves
B. We must prepare ourselves for the king’s return and the restoration of his kingdom