Preach the Word
“But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching.” Titus 1:3
It’s too long or too short, too loud or too soft, too deep or too light, too fast or too slow. Either the preacher jumps around like a jackrabbit or stands there like a tree trunk, sometimes a dead one at that. Either he massacres the English language or sounds like a walking thesaurus. As delicate and respectful as we try to be, we all have our take on preaching in general. Some preachers, we think, choke us with too much scripture, while others botch the one verse they do quote. Some tell too many stories, others too few. Some say amen after every sentence and others come across like slick professionals. But God never intended for preaching to be critiqued by human oratorical standards. If he did, neither Jonah, nor John the Baptist nor the Apostle Paul would have scored high marks.
Today, both preachers and their listeners need to be refreshed on the purpose of preaching. This need has been mandated by modern society’s mass migration from serious information processing to sheer entertainment. Competition has forced news broadcasts to resort to hilarious or else shocking, controversial stories. Radio “shock jocks” spew four-letter words and offensive subject material. Blood, gore, murder and mayhem drench the front pages. Headlines scream outrageous nonsense in order to sell newspapers. Entertainment rules. If people don’t like it, they won’t listen to it, watch it, use it, buy it, talk about it or come to it.
The church, too, has been given its “comeuppance” by this growing trend. Our up-beat music, abbreviated services, broadening of activities, focus on user-friendly methods, and emphasis on fun and excitement represent the attempt to get and hold congregations. Some of these changes have been welcomed, but others have forsaken substance in the pursuit of pure entertainment. Nowhere is this trend showing up more dangerously than in its impact on preaching. Here are some perspectives to keep in mind.
First, recognize God’s call on the preacher. “How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Romans 10:14-15. God calls preachers irrespective of accent, nationality, ethnicity, physical appearance, IQ, experience or mannerism. Their validation comes, not from education, charisma or acquired skill, but from the call of God. The preacher speaks in God’s stead. Thus, we listen with a reverent attitude, not a critical one.
Preaching pertains to salvation. The Bible clearly links preaching to salvation. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. After one’s initial conversion, preaching continues to provide a vital role in salvation. Paul told Timothy to “Preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2. Of course, every preacher must do his best, but his most important task remains delivering the unvarnished truth so people can be saved. Likewise, every listener must understand that his or her salvation may hinge on the message.
Preaching need not entertain. Preaching may not evoke laughter or admiration, but it always prepares our hearts. Heaven and hell, judgment and eternity are no laughing matters. Whenever we demand preachers to abandon gospel preaching and lighten up on doctrine, pamper us with feel-good clichés or distract us with inane antics, we grossly distort the purpose for preaching. Clowns and comedians, PMA enthusiasts or seminar regurgitators move no one closer to God. Any entertainment in preaching must always be coincidental to the core message.
Preaching proclaims truth. Preachers must remove themselves from the sermon’s focus. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 4:5. Also, the world overflows with fascinating information that constantly begs for our examination. But God reserves the pulpit for the proclamation of truth. “We preach Christ crucified.” 1 Corinthians 1:23. Titillating facts and interesting illustrations serve only to spice up a message. The sermon, stripped to its bare bones, must point people to Christ. Nothing else and no one else replaces Christ as the center fare for the sermon, because “Christ [is] the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24.
God speaks to you through preaching. Never forget that God always has something serious and consequential to say to you. He uses his servant, the preacher to deliver the message. Listen for it, prepare yourself for it, receive it. It will be your lifeline to eternity.
by J. Mark Jordan
Article originally appeared on ThoughtShades (http://jonathanjordan.squarespace.com/).
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