One of the greatest disappointments of the church in our century is that preaching no longer takes central stage. In efforts to appeal to people’s interest many different programs, methods and approaches have been used to make things more “culturally relevant.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “No one wants to listen to preaching anymore. It just isn’t relevant.” When the Church takes its cues from the culture rather than from the Bible it definitely starts to look more like the world than the Church.
A mark of a faithful church, not necessarily one that appeals to the masses, is that it takes its cues from the Bible, and its methodology from Christ Himself. In order to be faithful, the Church must not adopt the adage that teaches that the “end justifies the means.” In other words, this adage ascribes that pragmatism that grows the church must be godly and effective or otherwise God wouldn’t be blessing it. I have heard that argument all my life, but it simply doesn’t hold true. Some of the most heretical “churches” across our country are the largest in the nation.
Argumentation for Preaching
To be a faithful healthy Church, we must go to the ministry of Jesus and the apostles and the example of the early church to take our cues and develop our ministry philosophy. When these ministries and exhortations are examined, it is clear that the ordained method of the Church must be preaching, and preaching must be central.
First consider Jesus and His ministry. When Jesus first entered His ministry, he entered Nazareth and quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Three times Jesus says He was anointed to “proclaim” the good news. It is clear that this was His method, as He said, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).
Second consider the instruction of Jesus to His disciples. When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world, He sent them to preach the good news of the Gospel. Jesus sent out the twelve apostles telling them to preach as they went, saying “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt 10:7). Furthermore, the last thing he said to them before he ascended into heaven was “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
Third consider the apostles in the early Church. The very first thing that Peter did after Pentecost was to preach a sermon. He stood in front of literally thousands and he delivered the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection (Acts 2:17-36). A simple survey through the book of Acts reveals that preaching was the main method of the early Church (Acts 4:2, 5:42, 8:4, 25, 35, 9:20,11:20, 28:31). The Apostles and Church were simply obeying what Jesus commanded them to do when He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach” (Mark 16:15, Matt 10:7).
Fourth consider the argumentation of the Apostle Paul concerning preaching. In his letter to the Romans and Corinthians he clearly taught that preaching was God’s ordained method for saving souls. In Romans 10:13-17 Paul says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So, faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”
In Corinthians 1:17-25, Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Fifth, consider the exhortations to the Church. Paul exhorts Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
Al Mohler is right when he says, “Preaching did not emerge from the church’s experimentation with communication techniques. The church does not preach because preaching is thought to be a good idea or an effective technique. The sermon has not earned its place in Christian worship by proving its utility in comparison with other means of communication or aspects of worship. Rather, we preach because we have been commanded to preach.” I highly recommend Mohler’s four articles on preaching.
The Church should expect sound biblical preaching. Every healthy church consists of members who long for the Word of God to be explained to them (1 Peter 2:2, Neh 8:1-18). Mark Dever in his book on the 9 marks of a healthy church states, “The first mark of a healthy church is expository preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow. This is the crucial mark.” (Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, page 39).
- Come ready to hear the Word of God expounded. Prepare your heart the night before and be rested up so that you can be attentive.
- Ask God to speak to you through His word as it is preached. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, illumination will not occur. (1 Cor 2:6-16).
- Pray for your pastor/preacher that he will adequately prepare during the week to give clear explanation of a particular text of Scripture. Pray against distractions that will not allow him to have adequate time for study.
- Demand faithful exposition of Scripture. Topical messages are good periodically, but faithful exposition of the Scripture is going to prove to be the best way to grow spiritually and to get a clear grasp of Scripture.
- Listen with a discerning mind, not necessarily critical but thoughtful. Make sure that what the preacher is saying can be backed up with Scripture and is pertinent to the particular passage at hand.
- Pray over what you have heard and ask God to help you apply it to your life and heart.
- Pray for the lost that God might call them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.