There are many styles of preaching, many thoughts about what preaching is for and various ideas of what happens when someone preaches a sermon. Paul called it the “foolishness of preaching” but then he also reminded us that people can only know the gospel if they are told. (Romans 10:14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?). In this blog post, I would like to offer a possible understanding of the ministry of preaching and the role of the minister of the gospel when sharing the Word of the Lord.
First, I would like to put forth that preaching is an invitation. The temptation with preaching can be that the preacher speaks at the congregation or that the preaching leads to an invitation to come to the altar. I would propose that in content, in delivery and by the supernatural touch of the Lord, preaching itself is the invitation. As we share the good news we are inviting people to believe the awesome, bold and amazing news we are sharing. Preaching the good news is an invitation to receive from God all He has prepared and is offering to His beloved. Preaching is an invitation to be changed by a life-transforming Savior and an invitation to rest in the finished work of Jesus. Preaching should be an invitation to abide in God and let Him abide in us. As preachers of the gospel, let us begin to see our preaching as invitation, not a lecture or speech that leads to an invitation.
Second, I propose that preaching is a revelation. This isn’t the preacher’s revelation to the people and not an unveiling of pearls of wisdom. Instead, preaching is revelation of God’s heart. Preaching should be a manifestation of the character of love and holiness that is the very DNA of God. Preaching is a revelation of the blessings of God. Preaching is a revelation of the promises God has spoken and that He is speaking. Preaching is a revelation of God’s instructions for training in righteousness and commands which protect the hearer. But how can simply speaking words be a revelation of this magnitude? It is not because of the skill of the preacher or because of the gift of the preacher’s eloquence or delivery. Instead, preaching as revelation truly is by and because of the Holy Spirit. Above all revelation is because God is a self-revealing God and as He brings to life His Words the veil is lifted from hearts and His living and active words come ablaze with His revelatory power!
Third, I consider that preaching is an expression of love. I know that much of the time preaching may be considered the conveying of truth, or warning of impending judgment or even the telling of the story of love, but I would actually contend that preaching itself when properly done is an expression of love. The proper reason to preach and teach is that God has first loved us and His love in our hearts simply has to be shared with others. The practice of preaching is an expression of the love of God, the compassion of God and even of solidarity with the heart of God. To preach the gospel in all its fullness is to sense the heart of God sourcing our own hearts and becoming a spring of living water within us that simply must gush out and proceed forth in words. If a preacher can get in the pulpit and open the Word of God and not have love or compassion or tenderness or kindness or gentleness in his heart towards those he is sharing the Word with I would propose that what is conveyed is not truly preaching but instead something more like story-telling or giving a speech.
Fourth, I propose that preaching is life-imparting. When the Word of God (which is living and active) is spoken forth by God’s humble, obedient servants and anointed by God’s power and is transmitted to the hearers by His Spirit then life itself is imparted. Just as when God spoke and there was light and life (at Creation) and just as when God spoke the Words by Jesus to the sick, ailing, disease-ridden and infirmed and they received healing and new life, even so, when God’s Word is spoken even through the mouths (and lives) and imperfect mortals, His perfect life is imparted to those who hear, believe and receive it! I know that when people respond at the altar, tremendous breakthrough can occur. I also know that when people respond through praise and thanksgiving or by practicing what they have heard preached then new life can be experienced. But I would assert that even hearing the Word spoken and listening with a tender, open and believing heart, opens the door for God to impart directly into us His love, mercy, hope, healing, blessings and more! Preaching that is life imparting builds up those who hear, encourages, equips, and more! Preaching God’s Word should bind up broken hearts, connect the speaker and the hearer and result in life and heart transformation. When God speaks He makes all things new, even as He speaks through the medium of preaching.
Finally, I am sure that preaching is humble gratitude. Not just after the sermon and not just because of what happens at the altar or in response, but the actual practice of preaching ought to be an expression of humble gratitude. What we share should be because of what God has done for us and from the overflow of that, we speak. Preaching His gospel should be to the speaker surrender, consecration, and brokenness, allowing God’s perfect strength to show in our weakness and His amazing grace to sufficiently shine through. The preacher’s humble gratitude allows the fullness of Christ to take center stage and allows the breath of God to flow. As preachers, we must allow humble gratitude to consume us, even as we preach so that His fullness will flow unobstructed.
So as preachers of the gospel, I would encourage us to let God continue to make us new, continue to refine us, continue to shape us after His likeness an image and let us not walk into the pulpit without the Lord speaking unto us that what we are about to do is invitation, revelation, an expression of love, life-imparting and humble gratitude. If it is less than this, we will miss the point of the words we are speaking. If we make it more than this we elevate ourselves and diminish the Lord. Let us speak His Words boldly and with great love! What other choice do we have, it is like a fire shut up in our bones!!
Romans 10:13-15 For “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.