In preparation for the We Are Church pastoral intensive, I'm to read "Total Church" by Tim Chester. The book is making the argument that a true missional church must be both gospel-centred and community-centred, and in chapter 1, Chester unpacks a stream of biblical theology around the theme of the Word of God. Here he is speaking to my tribe - the tribe of conservative evangelicals that set the Word as central to life, discipleship and community. To the tribe that upholds the preaching of the Word as the heart of Christian worship. As a pastor, I am part of a local peer group in which we gather every so often to discuss the ins and outs of preaching. So yes - Chester is speaking to my tribe.
Yet Chester makes the case that if we are really dedicated to keeping the Word central, we must train people to share the Word of God and speak the word of God in evangelism, as "the good news is a missionary message."
Now if you know me, you know my love for the book of Acts. I've taught through it nearly every other year I've been in ministry, and thought I knew it like the back of my hand. Yet Chester pointed out something that I'd not seen before, or if I had seen it, I hadn't reflected on the significance of, namely, Luke's pointing to the word of God in his summary statements throughout the book:
The book of Acts is structured around summary statements that describe the growth of the church. Often the word of God is the agent of the sentence. “So the word of God spread” (Acts 6:7). “But the word of God continued to increase and spread” (Acts 12:24; 13:49; 19:20). The growth of God’s kingdom is synonymous with the spread of God’s word. The kingdom grows through the word as it elicits faith. [Chester, Tim. Total Church (Re: Lit Books) (p. 29). Crossway. Kindle Edition.]
He does not say, "the church spread"; nor does he say, "the disciples multiplied" or "increased in number" - but that "the word of God spread". Only as the word of God spreads, does the glory of the Lord fill the earth. Multiplying Christians are word-spreading proclaimers! The implication to my tribe is that preaching that is word-centred will be of necessity and impulse word-scattering. Thus the preacher equips the saints for the work of the ministry.