Baptist World Alliance
Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Phone: +1 703 790 8980
Fax: +1 703 893 5160

July 31, 2010
For Immediate Release
Faithful preachers proclaim God's message without fear, Jamaican Baptist insists

by Ken Camp
Honolulu (BWA) -- Preaching should be dangerous business, because faithful preachers dare to deliver a message from God - regardless of the consequences, Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, told the Baptist World Congress.

Addressing the 20th Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, July 29 in Honolulu, Johnson emphasized proclamation as the primary means of sharing the gospel with the world.
"There can be no real and viable substitute for it," he said.

Johnson pointed to the example of the 8th century prophet Amos in the Old Testament as a messenger from God who understood proclamation as a vocation grounded on irrepressible divine compulsion and confronted by inescapable tension.

Preachers called by God feel compelled to obediently serve as the "mouthpiece" for God, he said.
"This carries with it an awesome responsibility -- a responsibility never to project or present anything or anyone else, save God and God's message," Johnson said.

"Preaching, then, is a dangerous occupation. Proclamation is a frightening engagement, as we stand in the name of -- and on behalf of -- the God of this universe, who chooses to use us as his intermediaries, to speak his word."

Communication skills, preaching technique and homiletical tools matter, but not as much as the message itself, he stressed.

"I proclaim to you ... that it's not more aids that we need. We do not need more oratory. We do not need more lyrical gimmicks," Johnson said. "We need more messengers of God, bearers of the word of God, conduits of the truth, of the counsels of Almighty God -- persons who will proclaim, 'Thus says the Lord.'"

Preachers must understand not only the message God has given them, but also possess a proper understanding of God.

"Such is the awesomeness of this task that we need always to be wary of persons who are overly glib and overly confident in the handling of this truth, for the weight of it rests heavily on us," he said. "We dare not misrepresent God."

Certain occupational hazards come with the territory of proclaiming God's message, Johnson insisted. Like Amos, whom some discounted because of his place of origin and lack of formal training, modern preachers also may be dismissed based on factors of class, race, gender, politics or educational background, he said.

"We who stand in the name of God in Christ Jesus will always face tension in a world that is still upside-down concerning matters of equality and notions of superiority. Whatever the source of the tension, let us stand firm in the conviction that we are here, not so much because we think that being here brings with it a sense of actualization, but because we go where God sends us, do what God bids us do and say what God tells us say," Johnson said.

"And remember this -- the strength of our authority does not reside in any sponsor or any who supports us. The force of our message does not depend on the Ivy League, rarified atmosphere of any institution. Our authority comes from God's call on our lives, and God's message is never inferior."

Preachers run the risk of getting into trouble when they faithfully proclaim the message God gives them, Johnson said. The church today needs preachers who "will not consider their bank balance or examine their own welfare before determining what to preach," he said. "We need preachers who will not stop to assess their future before deciding whether they should obey God in what they say."

Faithful proclamation walks a fine line, attending to contextual relevance without surrendering to parochialism, Johnson concluded. The true preacher called by God maintains a global vision.

"Our message is therefore never culture-bound, even though it must have cultural relevance and sensitivity," he said. "Our message must never be exhausted only by local concerns. ... Let our message challenge the structures of imprisonment, bondage and evil, which are manifesting themselves in sinful ways and acts of rebellion all across this world.

"Let us speak truth to power. Let us proclaim truth to systems that nourish inequity and injustice, racism and poverty. And let us say with clarity and conviction, without fear or favor, 'Thus saith the Lord, Let God's people go.'

"And if they ask us -- in fact, when they ask us -- From where have we come? Who are we? Tell them, 'We are they who have heard the Lord speaking to us." Tell them: Our Lord has spoken. We can only but proclaim.'"

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.