God had only “one begotten Son.” He was a preacher. “But He said to them,’ Let us go into the next towns, that I may PREACH there also, because for this PURPOSE I have come forth’” (Mark 1:38). While some, even in the church, take preaching lightly and some take it seriously, God sent His Son on the longest missionary journey—from heaven to earth—in order to preach, train preacher, and command preaching. Preaching is God’s idea.
Preaching is not something that evolved out of a speech or communication class or the bright idea of a group of Bible students or worship committee. It is not something that is one of the choices at a job fair for students who are trying to decide on a vocation or college major. Preaching is an imperative framed in what we call the Great Commission: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world AND PREACH the gospel to every creature’” (Mark 16:15). Preaching originated in eternity.
When I resigned as a Detective with a big city police department to go and start my journey to train as a preacher, I received some interesting comments. “Why would you give up your career to do something as foolish as preaching?” “Have you lost your mind?” “You’ll be sorry…church members will use you and beat you down”, etc.
I am honored to say I have been in training as a preacher for over 50 years. I have been tasking myself to be the best preacher I am capable of being for over 50 years. I have, by God’s grace, been given the blessing and privilege to preach and teach over 10,000 times during these 50-plus years. I have had the joy, heartache, and enjoyment of teaching and training want-to-be preacher for over 40 years.
Preaching is a commission given by Christ—it is a divine charge. Each week I am challenged to take a fresh look at preaching. I never take for granted the opportunity God and my brethren are giving me to “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). What an honor to follow in my feeble way in the footsteps of Jesus, the preacher.
The sermon is not just a routine to fill time or an attempt to entertain those who come to hear a word from God. Paul was a master preacher and a trainer of preachers. He reminded us of the scope of preaching: “… Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Regardless of the number of persons who assemble to hear preaching nor if it is the same faces week after week, the audience’s needs are never the same. It is amazing what can happen during the 168 hours in a week. Thus the challenge to stay sensitive, relevant, and fresh in sermons.
When Paul commanded “Preach the Word!” he was commanding preaching “about the word”, “around the word”, “hinting at the word”, but preach the word. Why? Peter tells us why. “…His divine power has given us ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
The place and power of preaching begin with acknowledging and believing in the power and sufficiency of the Gospel—the only message ordained by God which is able to save a lost person. Paul wrote: “So much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:15, 16).
While there may be a place for appropriate illustrations and humor, none of these have the power to save a person. After a sinner has been “entertained” and had a laugh or two and was impressed by the preacher’s rhetoric skills, without the Gospel he is still lost. I once saw a cartoon panel that illustrates this point. Two older men were pictured having a conversation as they were leaving church services:
“Charlies, things sure have changed at church.”
“What do you mean?” Wilbur asked.
“Well, remember when we used to have to bring our Bibles to church; now we need to bring a dictionary.”
In my humble opinion which is based on experience and observations about the current state of preaching, we need to take a fresh look at preaching. The status of Christianity both locally and globally rests on the mission of the church to preach the word, the whole word, and nothing else but the word.
We need a brigade of preachers, soldiers of the cross (cf. 2 Timothy 2:1-3), (not pulpiteers) like we have never needed them before. Paul speaks about this honor of engaging in the “foolishness of preaching”. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
The church rises, stagnates, or fails relative to the preaching of the word. We are slipping, if we haven’t already, into the state described by Hosea hundreds of years ago: “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priests for Me” (Hosea 4:6).
On a technical note, the basis Greek form of the word “preach” (kerusso) declares the rooting in the kerygma—The Gospel. When the word is preached the preacher is speaking on God’s behalf. He is announcing God’s love and grace through the redemption which is only in Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-12).
Biblical preaching cannot be reduced to an outline, a set of points and well-rehearsed illustrations presented in colorful power point presentations. Bible preaching first centers in the contextually exegeted Scriptures, flowing from a heart of fire that is seeking to snatch the lost out of the fire (cf. Jeremiah 20: 9; Jude 20-23).
Biblical preaching does not center in what the hearers’ declare what they wish to hear, would like to hear, or some self-felt need. Preaching declares what God sees as the needs of the soul, and meets these needs through the Gospel of Christ and the supporting Epistles.
In biblical preaching, the redeemed, frail, sinful, and at best, needy preacher stands and dares to speak for God. He speaks not because it is his “job” or because he doesn’t have anything else to do on Sunday. His daily memory reminder, as well as written on numerous pieces of paper and visible plaques are the words of Paul: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid on me; yes, WOE is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Let’s be open-minded and unafraid to take a fresh look at the preaching of today. Let’s return to a biblical evaluation of the preacher and preaching. Maybe the church needs today more pulpits with blood, sweat, and tears instead of polish.