FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – The Word of God reforms churches and should inform church life and doctrine, pastor, author and former seminary trustee Michael Lawrence said during a visit to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 28.
“Prioritize the preaching and teaching of God’s Word above everything else” in ministry, said Lawrence, who preached on the parable of the sower in Mark 4 during the seminary’s Reformation Day chapel.
By building programs and worshipping with certain music, he added, churches can draw crowds of various kinds. But “crowds are not what we are after if we are ministers of the Gospel. It is the Kingdom of God that we want to see, and to see that we need to recover our confidence in the Word of God because it is the Word and the Word alone, sown liberally, that brings in the Kingdom.”
Through His Word, God created the universe, called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans and established the nation of Israel. In Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, God commanded Ezekiel to preach flesh and life into those bones. Also, the preaching and teaching of the Word of God ultimately effected the Reformation of the 16th century, Lawrence said, pointing to Martin Luther’s own testimony: “I did nothing. The Word did it all.”
In a student forum after chapel, Lawrence called pastors to allow the overarching narrative of Scripture—what, for him, forms a person’s biblical theology—to inform their preaching and their lives.
“I am a little embarrassed that most of my favorite biblical-theological preachers are either Anglicans or Presbyterians,” Lawrence said. “I would love to see more Baptist preachers preach biblical theology because, after all, we’re the ones that got the biblical theology right.”
According to Lawrence, who recently published Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry, biblical theology is essential to the correct preaching of a passage of Scripture. Biblical theology connects a passage to the rest of Scripture, placing it within the story of God’s redemptive work.
Lawrence’s own interest in biblical theology is rooted in his own testimony. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, he recalled having heard either simple Gospel messages followed by times of invitation or else moral lessons.
“What that taught me over the years,” he said, “was that Jesus saved me from my sins, and I was going to heaven, and in the meantime I better be good.”
This surface-level understanding of the biblical message grew irrelevant as Lawrence grew older, and he began to run from the church. Preachers who understood and used biblical theology in their sermons, however, drew him back to the church—for a time, to Presbyterianism.
“It was biblical theology,” Lawrence stressed, “that led me back to being Baptist after having spent a decade in the Presbyterian world.”
For this reason, Lawrence urged Baptist ministers to utilize biblical theology in their preaching and teaching, but he also encouraged them to apply biblical theology to their family lives.
“One of the ways I live out biblical theology at home is in my marriage,” he said. “Marriage is a key biblical-theological theme. The Bible begins with a wedding and it ends with a wedding. We start with the marriage of Adam and Eve, and we end with the wedding feast of the lamb.”
Additionally, Paul shows that “marriage itself is one of the most profound pictures of the Gospel, of Christ and the church, that we have.” As a result, one’s marriage can reflect or defame the Gospel. Similarly, the Bible portrays God as father. As a result, godly parenting can reflect the Gospel.