Preaching – An Awesome Task

I wrote this for Eryl Davies and his new book Preaching – An Awesome Task published by Evangelical Press…..

“What ministers do on their holidays is probably worthy of a book in and of itself. The individuality of a minister comes out particularly in this area. My habit is to basically recharge my batteries by reading books I’ve not had the time to read during the previous year.  In the summer of 2015 I had managed to complete all my holiday reading with two days  still remaining and so, with smug satisfaction, I looked on my father in law’s shelf in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and it was there I found the 1983 edition of ‘The Wrath of God’ by Dr Eryl Davies. The reason I decided to read it was that it was the substance of 3 addresses from the 1981 Bala Ministers Conference. There is something about addresses which are only given to ministers that makes them nearly always worth reading. Added to that, this was the first Bala conference after the death of Dr Lloyd Jones, with whom he had been so closely associated.

Another particular value in this volume is that I don’t think in my 13 years as a minister I have known of 3 main addresses at a minister’s conference being devoted to the wrath of God. The style is directed to ministers and yet is accessible to all believers. The fact that we are still, as evangelicals, so reluctant to speak of the wrath of God and the doctrine of hell, means that these addresses, given over 35 years ago are as relevant now as they were then.

In evangelism we all know that it’s at the point when people realise we are saying, that, without Jesus Christ, they are under the wrath of God; they are lost, are without God and without hope, that we risk the greatest offence. There are truths contained within this short book that we’d rather not think about and yet, without proclaiming them, we are not being faithful. We have to regain our nerve in preaching the gospel. Being so desperate to gain ourselves a hearing, we are in danger of preaching sermons that bear no resemblance to what we see in the book of Acts. We must not relegate the preaching of the wrath of God to seminars and follow up courses.

Dr Davies has spent a lifetime serving Christ’s church as a Pastor, a theologian and a local churchman. The need for Biblical wisdom in dealing with the wrath of God is ably met by him. I commend this volume to you and pray that it will have a wide readership. It will take you a couple of hours to read, but it will be worth it. God willing your preaching will be changed by it and so will the people God has entrusted to your care.”





Day 63

Day 63 – Wed 2 Nov -Today was one of those days when I’d hoped I’d accomplish a great deal and seemingly did very little. I took Noah in early for quiz club, then met with Chuck one of my elders, followed by some admin with Jess. Stuart Cashman was up next at lunchtime and we shared the joys and woes of church life. Church planting is slow, long, hard work, glorious but also a real slog.

I studied all afternoon and avoided doing the tax return, so it awaits me for the next two days. Tonight was our monthly prayer gathering, we had slightly smaller numbers and I was disappointed. I didn’t lead it well, we did pray but probably too much talking.
Afterwards I caught up with some of the dads from the school at the Drayton Court.

Day 62

Day 62 – Tue 1 Nov – I had a meeting with a friend who works in Westminster at 7.30 so I was up at 6 and onto the tube. We finished up before the start of work and I was back home but 9.30. I’d been up late the night before and the morning was pretty hard going. I worked on Romans 6 for ELT and managed to get through it all just in time. I had a long complicated illustration that I don’t think worked and at one point found myself illustrating the illustration which is never a good thing.

Straight after ELT I was back on the tube to take a funeral for the Brazilian father of someone in our congregation, I went to Honor Oak crematorium which is in South London, the only problem being that the funeral wasn’t at Honor Oak but in Canada Water at a Chapel of Rest. I got a cab and was 15 minutes late but thankfully the family was Brazilian so I arrived only 5 minutes after they did. There were only 7 of us but it went well and it was good to be there for the family. They gave me a lift home and I was back for around 7. Exhausted wasn’t the word and there was only cold Lasagne to eat which for a man in my fragile state of mind I couldn’t bear. 5 a side is cancelled for a month so I popped down to the Gun Hill for a Lamb Biriani.

Day 61

Day 61 – Mon 31 Oct – I was in the study all morning, working on Romans 6  for ELT, then Isa for next week. I have a mountain of admin to do this week but I procrastinated on that. In the afternoon I went down to Brentford to see Alun Ebenezer. I’m slowly reading through Volume One of Promise and Deliverance by SG De Graaf, so far it’s been terrific. We only have two Trick or Treaters much to the kids disappointment. I was out for dinner with one of the men in the congregation and got back far too late for a schoolnight.

Day 60

Day  60 – Sun 30 Oct – An extra hour in bed isn’t really paid attention to by the kids so it was a long morning before church. We had another baptism this time of a couple who used to be in the congregation but have moved to Cornerstone, Kingston. We decided as elders that we would baptise the children of former members if they’d moved to a church that didn’t practice infant baptism, if their current church agreed. I was preaching on Isaiah 40 which is one of those purple passages. I just didn’t capture the grandeur and vibrancy of the passage. My preaching at the moment feels a little bit like Tony Pulis’ football management. It’s occasionally effective but workmanlike and certainly not easy on the eye. I had a lovely chat with Ezekiel our 70something Kenyan man who is always full of encouragement, he always picks me up after a service. Simon Wakeling who is an EFCC minister from East London was there and asking about keeping children in worship which was good to talk through.

There were encouragingly lots of visitors, A Romanian family who’d been at Cambridge Presbyterian, an Iranian family who come occasionally, and a lad from Trinity, York.

In the afternoon we were at the Silva’s along with their parents for lunch and had a lovely time. Walking in the park in an autumn afternoon was beautiful. The evening service I preached the first of two in Philemon following on from the series on Colossians. Again I had some decent insights but it was hard going. I’m looking forward to not preaching next Sunday and listening, I suspect the congregation feel the same.

I need to be more prepared for Sundays so the day isn’t such hard work for Claire. This week is lighter, just Lunchtime Talk and a funeral to prepare.

Vernon Higham Obituary

I wrote this obituary for the November issue of Evangelicals Now

For 40 years Vernon Higham exercised a hugely influential ministry at Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff. He wrote according to Evangelicals Now in 2000, the second most popular hymn from the last century Great is the Gospel of our Glorious God and he was a close friend Dr Lloyd Jones preaching at both his and Mrs Lloyd Jones funeral.

Mr Higham was born on 25 December 1926 in Caernarfon, North Wales, spending his childhood just outside Bolton where he attended the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. He trained as an art teacher, but then felt called to the gospel Ministry. It was during his second term at Theological College in Aberystwyth that he was converted through the witness of his fellow students.  After two brief pastorates in West Wales and Pontarddulais he moved in 1962 to the Welsh capital. He was a first language Welsh speaker and when he arrived at the Heath he had only preached in English six times before.

Over a 40 year ministry his output was quite remarkable. Whilst he was there he would be producing 3-4 sermons per week alongside the pastoral care of the congregation. For 15 years of his ministry he suffered ill health and yet in God’s  kindness he never missed a Sunday. His preaching can be heard online at the Vernon Higham Trust Site. During the 1970s and 1980s God used Mr Higham greatly with many people coming to faith. The congregation remained around the 700/800 mark throughout his ministry.  In 1999 Tentmaker published a collection of over 160 of his hymns. Perhaps his greatest passion was that we would see a revival of the work of God in our day. JI Packer wrote of Mr Higham “Vernon Higham’s longing that God would visit us again is infectious – and it is an infection that we all need.” He retired from the Heath in 2002 and in his final years served as Pastor Emeritus at Tabernacle Church, Cardiff, continuing to preach until months before his death on 14th September.

Mr Higham is survived by his wife Morwen who was such part of his ministry, his two sons Dewi and Alun both Pastors themselves and a daughter Sioned.