The need for preaching to be more than a theological lecture has been highlighted by Rev Greg MacDonald, minster at Ness, in his Moderator’s Address at the annual gathering in Edinburgh of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).
Mr MacDonald told the denomination that the enforced lack of interaction during the recent periods of lockdown impressed upon him more than ever before the need for the church's preaching to directly address the needs of those in their congregations.
The Moderator told the Assembly that there can be no excuse for a preacher to preach with any indifference to the needs of those in front of him; especially when they have committed the welfare of their souls to his keeping.
The new Moderator reminded Commissioners, gathered from around the church, that Jesus was a pastoral preacher with a pin-sharp focus on those to whom he preached.
"Our Lord’s preaching demonstrated a great understanding of the human condition and their needs. He was never imprecise or general where he could be direct and plain.
"Acknowledging that we do not possess anything like the infallible empathy and understanding of the Saviour, there is nevertheless a great need to understand our people. We need to make sure that our preaching is, in fact, addressing their needs."
According to Mr MacDonald, who has ministered at Ness in Lewis for close to 18 years, it is therefore crucial that ministers continue to visit their congregations. Only in this way will they be aware of their spiritual concerns. This will enable them to bring careful, kind, prayerful and loving pastoral care.
Pointing out that Ephesians 4:11 tells us that Christ has given pastors as one of the gifts to His church, he concludes that if the body of Christ is not being pastored correctly, it is not because the Saviour has failed to provide, but because ministers have failed to fulfil their office.
In his address, the new Moderator, who took up his duties on Monday evening, also reminded elders of their vital role in upholding the pastoral work of the congregation. Local knowledge and understanding brings valuable insight and opportunity as elders share with minister in the care of the people.
The Assembly is expected to continue its business until Thursday morning.