On Friday I caught the train across London to call in on Spurgeon’s College with whom, as some of you will know, I am gradually doing a part-time doctorate. My studies pick up on the Life of the Frontline course we did as a church a few years back, looking at how as a church we can support people in their main mission field, not Alpha or any of the other activities we do together as a church, but those activities we spend most of our time on outside of organised church events. For many of us, this will be work, for some looking after a family, for others it maybe the varied activity of retirement. How can we be the best care-worker or manager or parent for Christ? What does it mean to serve him in these various roles and situations? Having done my Masters on preaching, I became interested in finding an approach to preaching that encourages or equips people in this daily mission. In reading around the topic, I stumbled on a book called ‘Preaching as Testimony’ in which the author, Anna Carter Florence, makes the claim that she believes that if you preach following this particular approach, it will help your listeners share their own stories of encountering God to others in their daily lives. For my research, I want to test that claim. What impact would taking that approach to preaching have and does it live up to this claim in practice? I shall talk a little more about that at the church meeting and how I hope the church might play a part in my research.
But why am I going to Spurgeon’s this week? Having had my research proposal accepted by the university who oversees Spurgeon’s work, I have now been assigned my supervisors and this trip for my first meeting with them. My primary supervisor is Stephen Wright, my previous preaching tutor, and someone whose insights I really value. I’m chuffed to have him helping me. My other supervisor goes by the name of Zoltan Schwab. I don’t know Zoltan yet, but with a name like Zoltan, he’s a hit with me already! The purpose of the supervisors is not so much to teach me as a tutor would, but to come alongside a student to encourage and guide them through the research journey as one who has been there ahead of them, sharing their experience and insights, and asking probing questions from time to time. I anticipate turning to them frequently.
In my research and in our evening services, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel. The Spirit is described in similar terms as the paraclete, the one who comes alongside us to help us on the journey as we follow Jesus, the one who has gone ahead of us to prepare a room for us in his Father’s house, the one who is the way, the truth and the life. As much as I suspect I shall need Stephen and Zoltan, I know I shall need the Spirit even more! It is his work to guide us, to point us in the right way, and yes, to ask probing questions from time to time.
Spirit, guide us on Jesus’ way, as we follow him to our Father.
Reproduced from the Church Newsletter, 11.02.18