What is Preaching? Part 1

Martin Luther said that the pulpit is the throne for the Word of God.  That is why pulpits and Bibles are usually visually prominent in most churches.  The preached Word is a central feature of Christian worship, especially evangelical, Protestant worship.

A sermon may last anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending upon the traditions of the church and the listening capacity of the congregation.  While attending services in Ghana, West Africa, Sunday services sometimes lasted about three hours, had three offerings and two sermons.  Among New England Puritans, sermons lasted an hour to an hour and a half.  There was often an hour glass placed by the pulpit to make sure the sermon was long enough!  So, before you comment or complain about sermon lengths consider with me this thing we call preaching.

What is preaching?  Quite simply, preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word.  A preacher is a herald who announces good news.  A preacher is appointed by God (through the church) and becomes His mouthpiece in speaking His word.  The preached Word will point to the written Word (the Bible) which will point to the living Word (Jesus Christ).

Preaching is one of the special ways God meets with his people.  God speaks through the unique character and ethos of the preacher as the Bible is opened up and explained, so that it is God’s voice that is heard and people worship and obey him.

This assumes of course that there is a God, and that he is a God who speaks.  It assumes that people desperately need him—they need to hear about him, believe in him, be reconciled to him through Christ, and discover that he is the source of true joy.  It assumes that the most basic problems of our world are spiritual.  It also assumes that God commissions people to speak in his name, acting as his mouth piece to declare the Word of the Lord.

The difference between a preacher and a mere communicator, is that communication is audience centered, but preaching is God centered.  A good preacher cares about his audience deeply, but it is God who determines the message that is aimed at the audience.

The content of preaching is the Bible—God’s gracious self revelation.  The focus is Christ. The delivery system is a human personality.  The aim is to glorify God and transform those who hear His Word so that they will come to know, love and live for God.

A good sermon then will be Bible based.  There will be a steady balanced diet from the Scriptures that is related to the entire storyline of the Bible.  It will also be Christ and gospel centered.  Whatever passage is being preached from, it should in some way point to Christ’s person and work as the fulfillment of Scripture.  The whole Bible points to Christ.  We preach so that people will worship him.

A good sermon will also be life-related.  It will connect the Biblical world with our world.  It will aim to engage the heart, the mind and the will not just to inform, but to evoke a response to God and transform lives. The words will not always be easy to hear, because, as has been said many times, a good sermon will both comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  Yet in the end, people will hear the voice of God in, with, and under the preacher’s words.  God will be glorified, the saints will be edified, and the broken and bowed down will hear good news.

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